Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (11-1 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Conference USA Championship Game
Date and Time: Saturday, December 6, 2014, 12:00 pm EST
Where: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, W.Va.
TV: ESPN2, DirecTV 209
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: La.Tech +12.5/Marsh. -12.5
Over/Under Total: 69
Two of the countrys most prolific offenses will be chuckin it all over the field at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington on Saturday, when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and the Marshall Thundering Herd battle in the Conference USA Championship game on ESPN2 at noon.
With a measly 38.8 points per game average, the Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech are 12th in FBS in scoring, but thats just a drop in the bucket to the Thundering Herds jaw-dropping 46.7 points per game average, the 2nd-best scoring tally in college football. Playstation numbers aside, for Marshall this will be their second straight C-USA title game, as they hope to get revenge for losing last years title to Rice, 41-24.
For the Herd, Saturdays game cant help but be a tad bit anti-climatic, as a stunning, 67-66, overtime loss to Western Kentucky last week not only spoiled their perfect season, but virtually eliminated any hopes the Herd had of playing in a big-payday New Years Day bowl game as well. The loss has to have completely taken all of the wind out of the Herd, making the C-USA East crown an oh-yeah kind of accomplishment and could make Saturdays title game a severe test of their makeup and motivation.
La Tech had already locked up the C-USA West title prior to last weeks regular season finale against Rice, but just to make sure and eliminate any doubt they went out and destroyed the Owls in ass-whoopin fashion, 76-31. The Bulldogs scored 48 points in the second half, turning a nail-biter into a laugher as the defense also contributed with two fumble recoveries returned for scores in the lopsided victory.
With the status of Marshall running back Devon Johnson still in doubt (shoulder questionable), a lot of sportsbooks havent put a point spread for the C-USA title game up on their boards yet. The few that have gone ahead and put a number on the game have opened it with host Marshall as 12.5-point favorites. Those same books have set the opening over/under total between these two offenses at 69.
One only has to look at the scores both teams put up last week to get a little giddy with all of the potential offense that this title game may have in store for all of us. Not only did both teams go over the posted total for Saturdays game BY THEMSELVES last week, but Marshall had 41 points on the scoreboard at halftime last week and Louisiana Tech put 48 up in the second half, so to say these two can strike fast is a major understatement.
Ironically, both teams have similar styles and schemes. Both schools are led by senior quarterbacks, with Marshalls Rakeem Cato (3,314 yards, 35 TD, 12 INT) boasting numbers only slightly better than La Techs Cody Sokal (3,117 yards, 29 TD, 17 INT) at years end. Both squads also have strong running backs, with Techs Kenneth Dixson scoring more touchdowns (23 to 18) while Marshalls Johnson ended with more yards (1,602 to 1,080) despite missing part of last weeks game with a bum shoulder. Both teams also use a bevy or receivers to spread the field and spread the wealth, as La Tech has 13 different players with a yards-per-catch average of 10-plus and six different with more than two touchdowns on the season, while Marshall has 11 players with a 10-plus average and nine different players with over two scores this season.
With all of the eye-popping numbers put up by these offenses theres no doubt both defenses will be overlooked coming into the title game, but theres also little doubt that the defense that plays the game of their lives on Saturday will help their team walk off the field carrying the C-USA trophy. On paper, Marshall is better versus the passing game (allowing 205 ypg to Techs 232 ypg), while the Bulldogs are much stronger versus the run (allowing 118 ypg to the Herds 154 ypg).
One also has to remember that all of these mind-boggling stats were put up against C-USA competition the Southern Mississippis, the UABs and the Florida Atlantics of the college football world. This is a very important factor to consider before we go thinking that these 76-point and 67-point outbursts are normal and usual.
If youre looking for recent head-to-head games between these two schools for direction, good luck, because they havent played each other since the schools that make up Conference USA seem to change every year. Louisiana Tech is a solid 20-7 ATS in their last 27 road games overall, but the Herd is an equally strong 10-2 ATS in their last 12 games played at home in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Ironically, the under seems to be the play for these teams in post-season and late-season play, as both La Tech and Marshall have ended under the total in four of their last five games played in December.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Full disclosure here I have not watched either of these teams play a single snap all season. That said, I have a hard time believing that Marshall is almost two touchdowns better than the Bulldogs. Teams that make championship games make them for a reason, and I think most bettors will only look at the Herds 11-1 record and think this game will be an easy one. If I play this one, Ill be taking Louisiana Tech plus the points and hope that one of these teams decided to play a defense on Saturday. Im taking La Tech plus the points.