UCF (5-2) at Marshall (3-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 8:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,019) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television:CBSSN. Home Record: UCF 3-1, MU 1-2. Away Record: UCF 2-1, MU 2-2. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, MU 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 3-0, MU 2-1. Series Record: UCF leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights put their perfect league record on the line when they take on the Marshall Thundering Herd in a Conference USA East Division matchup at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
UCF is the only remaining team in the East Division without a C-USA loss. The Knights picked up their third win in row last week by taking down Memphis, 35-17. Their only losses on the season came courtesy of Ohio State (31-16) and Missouri (21-16). UCF will become bowl eligible with its next win. Coach George O'Leary had guided the program to a bowl game four times since taking over in 2004.
Marshall came off its bye week and ended a two-game losing slide last week with a 59-24 rout of Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. The Thundering Herd are just 1-2 at home this season after hard-fought losses to Ohio University and Tulsa. Marshall's road setbacks were handed to it by West Virginia and Purdue. Despite the 3-4 overall record, Marshall is just one game behind the Knights in the East Division standings.
UCF and Marshall have played every season since 2002. The Knights have won the last seven meetings to take a 7-3 lead in the all-time series. O'Leary has never lost to Marshall as the Knights' head coach.
The Knights have been a stellar offensive team in recent weeks, averaging 37.7 ppg. in their last three outings. Blake Bortles has shown development in his first year as a full-time starter, but was held to a season-low 122 yards on 15-of-26 passing at Memphis last week. Bortles has 14 touchdowns passes to five interceptions through seven games. The sophomore has not thrown an interception since Sept. 15.
UCF has a trio of effective wideouts in J.J. Worton, Rannell Hall, and Quincy McDuffie. Worton leads the regime with 30 catches for 419 yards.
The Knights' rushing attack features two dangerous weapons in Latavius Murray and Storm Johnson. UCF gained 229 yards on the ground against Memphis its last time out. Murray picked up 192 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. is the sixth leading rusher in the conference with 427 yards and four touchdowns on 92 carries. Johnson had his role reduced last week with Murray in the zone, but still leads the team with 416 yards and 95 carries.
While O'Leary's offense is serviceable, his defense is even more impressive. The Knights lead the C-USA in total defense and scoring defense with averages of 352.9 allowed yards and 22 allowed points per contest. Ohio State is the only team to score 30 or more points in regulation versus the Knights this season.
Senior A.J. Bouye recorded an interception and scored his second career touchdown on a 79-yard fumble return in last week's win. Bouye's first-career score was 42-yard interception return for six at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in 2010.
Marshall has been stampeding offensively this season. It is ranked fourth out of 120 FBS teams in total offense (568.4 ypg) and second in passing offense (390 ypg).
The Herd operate from a spread attack with its leader, Rakeem Cato under center. Cato has already surpassed his freshman year totals by throwing for 2,651 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. The sophomore QB is completing 70.3 percent of his passes and has only thrown seven interceptions.
Although he was not even expected to be the best wideout on his own team, Tommy Shuler is leading the C-USA in receiving yards per game (96.1) and is second in the FBS with 9.9 receptions per contest. Shuler is not the only MU wideout among the conference's receiving leaders. Aaron Dobson (546 yards, 47 rec.) is tied for fourth and Antavious Wilson (486, 38 rec.) is seventh.
While the trio of wideouts have the most yards through the air, tight end Gator Hoskins has pulled in a team-best seven touchdown catches.
MU employs a three-headed rushing attack made up of new faces. Steward Butler, Kevin Grooms, and Remi Watson have shared the ball carrying duties. Grooms has amassed a team-high 461 yards on 65 carries.
Defensively, Holliday's squad showed improvement against Southern Miss. The Herd limited the Golden Eagles to 331 yards, which is the fewest by any opponent this season.
Marshall needs to build on that success after showing the stopping ability of a floor mat earlier in the season. It has the worst scoring defense in the conference with an allowed average of 41.6 ppg. Dominick LeGrande is pacing the defense with 78 total stops, which is the sixth most in the FBS.
The Thundering Herd would love nothing more than to hand UCF a loss as a parting gift before the Knights exit Conference USA for the greener pastures of the Big East. Marshall will need its defense to slow down the Murray and Johnson tandem or force turnovers to end its losing streak to the Knights.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 34, UCF 31
10/24 10:31:38 ET