Marshall (1-2) at Rice (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice Stadium (47,000) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CSS. Home Record: Marshall 1-1, Rice 1-1. Away Record: Marshall 0-1, Rice 0-1. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Rice 0-0. Conference Record: Marshall 0-0, Rice 0-0. Series Record: Marshall leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd look to pick up their first road win of the season when they head to Houston, Texas to open up their Conference USA season against the Rice Owls.
Marshall will also be looking for its first-ever win in the state of Texas. The Thundering Herd are 0-8 all-time in the Lone Star State. Despite having a 1-2 record this season, Marshall has one of its strongest teams in recent history. Coach Doc Holliday's squad came up just short against its former MAC rival, Ohio University, as it turned the ball over in the final minute before losing, 27-24. MU opened up its season with a 69-34 loss to West Virginia and 52-24 victory over Western Carolina.
Following their dramatic last-second win over Kansas, the Owls (1-2) failed to repeat their non-conference success as they were beaten, 56-37, by the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Coach David Bailiff's team came out flat against LaTech but still managed to produce a season-high 37 points. Rice began its season with a 49-24 loss to the UCLA Bruins. Bailiff's record with the Owls dropped to 24-40 with last week's loss.
The Thundering Herd hold a slim, 2-1 advantage in the all-time series. Marshall won both matchups in Huntington, but lost the 2008 bout in Houston.
The Herd lead the FBS in passing offense (425.0 ypg) and rank 10th in total offense (550.3 ypg) thanks largely to the stellar performance of their sophomore signal-caller. Rakeem Cato is leading the nation in total offense with 422.7 yards per game. Cato was benched last season in the middle of his freshman campaign, but he returned late in the season and led the team to a win over FIU in the Beef'O'Brady Bowl.
Through three games, Cato has already passed for 1,222 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions.
Five different MU wideouts have already eclipsed the century mark on the season. NFL prospect Aaron Dobson is leading the team with 247 yards and two touchdowns on 24 catches. Senior Antavious Wilson is a solid number two option with 197 yards on 15 catches.
Heading into its bout with Ohio, there was concern whether or not Marshall's defense could contain the Bobcats. Ohio went into the contest averaging 541.5 yards and 37.5 points per game, but Marshall held them to 399 yards and 27 points.
Dominick LeGrande is leading the team with 34 total tackles, but there still is a glaring need for one of the linemen to step up and apply consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Rice could be the perfect team for a Marshall pass rusher to have a breakout performance against. The Owls are allowing 3.7 sacks per game. They have managed to score 28.7 points and gain 412.7 yards per contest. The Owls had a season-best 477 yards of total offense last week.
The Owls' rely heavily on their dual-threat QB Taylor McHargue. The junior finished last week with 205 passing yards, 93 rushing yards, and five total touchdowns in the losing effort. McHargue is fourth in the C-USA in total offense with 273 total yards per game.
McHargue is the second leading rusher on the team only trailing Charles Ross. After rushing for just two yards on two carries in the season opener, the Owls' junior running back has emerged and averaged 105 rushing yards and scored twice since.
Although Sam McGuffie was expected to be the star of the offense, he has been overshadowed by Jordan Taylor (205 yards, 15 catches) and Vance McDonald (133 yards, 10 catches) so far. However, McGuffie built a reputation as a freshman at Michigan as a constant home run threat which should at least keep MU's defenders aware of his whereabouts throughout the contest.
The Owls have one of the poorest defenses in the FBS with allowed averages of 531.3 yards and 43 points per contest. The good news for Rice is that it has been better at stopping the pass than the run so far, but that could quickly change against Cato.
Bryce Callahan is tied for the conference lead with two interceptions.
Marshall's offense is quickly becoming the best in the C-USA due to Holliday's exceptional recruiting eye. Cato is already the best quarterback the program has seen since Byron Leftwich was leading the charge. The Owls will need a big performance out of McHargue to keep the Thundering Herd winless in Texas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 42, Rice 34
09/19 10:40:34 ET