Purdue Boilermakers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Marshall Thundering Herd (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Sunday, September 6th, 2015, 3:00 pm EST
Where: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, W. Va.
TV: Fox Sports 1
by Badger, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PUR. +7.5/MAR. -7.5
Over/Under Total: 64
In what should be one of the more competitive games in week one college football action, the Purdue Boilermakers out of the Big 10 travel into the heart of West Virginia to play the C-USA powerhouse Marshall Thundering Herd in the Sunday afternoon game of the four-day college football kickoff weekend on Fox Sports One.
The Purdue Boilermakers begin year-three of the Darrell Hazell rebuilding project in West Lafayette with renewed hopes. With eight starters back on both sides of the ball, the normally tempered amount of hope about the Boilermakers chances in the Big Ten Conference are being increased slightly. How well Purdue handles an opening week challenge on the road against a quality opponent in the Thundering Herd will speak volumes on just how far the Boilers have come under Hazell.
After going 14-2 in Conference USA the past two seasons, its safe to consider the Herd the premiere program in the albeit weakened conference. Of course Marshall is considered the team to beat in C-USA with a likely cakewalk through league play again this season, which is why a strong performance against a Big Ten opponent in the season opener will help the Thundering Herds chances come late November in the eyes of the committee.
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When this matchup opened in Las Vegas several weeks back it went on the board with Marshall as strong 8.5-point favorites at home. The point spread has since come down, sitting with the Herd at minus -7.5 at most sportsbooks, even though the early public money on this game has been split nearly down the middle (51% on Purdue, 49% on Marshall). The over/under total opened at 63 and has climbed all the way up to 64.5 at some books, with most of them with 64 as the current number on the board.
Last week Purdues Hazell confirmed what many had speculated since the spring redshirt sophomore Austin Appleby will be the Boilermakers starter in 2015. Appleby started seven games at the end of last season, so he should be more comfortable going forward this season. Hell have the luxury of a solid offensive line (four returning starters with 73 career starts total) and skilled playmakers in RB D.J. Knox and WR Danny Anthrop (1,449 yards last year) as his disposal. Marshalls defensive front-seven was crushed by graduation last year, but if they can win the early downs the secondary returns stud safties Taj Letman and A.J. Leggett who will help the Herd easily win third-and-long situations.
On offense Marshall waves goodbye to four-year starting quarterback Rakeem Cato, and not only will they have a new face in charge of the huddle but they have to find a way to replace three of the big-uglies in front of him along the line of scrimmage. The Herd has to find a way to get production out of a young offensive line, because with running back Devon Johnson (1,767 yards in 2014) returning it sure would make it easy on the inexperienced QB to just grind away in the running game. The Purdue defense is a good-news-bad-news situation the good news is they played a lot of young players and have eight returning starters, including some good talent in the front seven (DT Jake Replogle and LBs JaWhaun Bentley). The bad news is those players ranked 97th in defensive scoring in FBS in 2014, so even the slightest progression by any of the youngsters is necessary for the Boilermakers to stop opposing offenses in 2015.
These two schools met for a barn-burner back in 2012, with Purdue walking away with a, 51-41, home victory the last (and only) time they met on the gridiron. Marshall did cover the 17-point spread with ease however, and as you would expect the game ended way over the closing total of 61 in the game. The biggest difference in the game from 2012 was the Purdue pass defense, which ran back two of then-sophomore Catos three interceptions for touchdowns in the game.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread:Its always a bad sign when I side with the public in the first week of the season, but I also like the Boilermakers getting over a full touchdown in this one. I fully expect Marshall to still be explosive on offense despite a new QB, but the Herds lack of experience along both the defensive and offensive lines leads me to believe that Purdue should be able to control this game in the trenches. Im taking Purdue plus the 7.5-points.
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