FIU is down to its final two games of the 2016 season with Marshall coming to town Saturday and then the Panthers traveling to Norfolk, Virginia the day after Thanksgiving for a Saturday game against much-improved Old Dominion.
This year's Thundering Herd is not your father's Thundering Herd. Marshall has fallen on hard times at 3-7 and will not go to a bowl game for the first time since 2012 when the Herd finished 5-7. So like FIU, Marshall is playing for pride in its final two games.
So what the hell happened to Marshall this season? Here is Grant Traylor, the Marshall beat writer for the Herald-Dispatch, to provide some answers for 5 Questions on Marshall. For all things Marshall, you can follow Grant on Twitter: @GrantTraylor
1. You probably have been asked this question by many others but what the hell is going on with Marshall this season? The Herd is usually the cream of the C-USA crop.
GT: Marshall lost many key players coming into the 2016 season, but no one expected there to be the impact that was left from those exiting players. Also, key injuries at critical positions, such as offensive line, have hindered the Herd offense from getting on track. Against Middle Tennessee last week, the Herd showed the promise that everyone thought would be present throughout the 2016 season, but it just hasn’t panned out. There is plenty of talent, but chemistry issues, plus depth and injury issues have kept the Herd from getting back to that contender status in C-USA’s East Division that was anticipated.
2. I've noticed the Herd defense has given up some big points in some games this season like 65 to Akron and 38 to North Texas. Has the defense been the weak spot on this team and if so, why?
GT: Honestly, the defense was a weak point early as they grew together, but the problem in the middle of the year was that the offense wasn’t performing well, which kept the defense on the field for long periods of time, such as the North Texas and Southern Miss games. The Old Dominion game was just a poor effort all the way around, but it was followed up last week by a strong performance against Middle Tennessee.
3. Chase Litton seems to be having a good season but what can you say about the rest of the Marshall offense?
GT: Marshall’s offensive line has struggled, which has left the Herd essentially one-dimensional due to the lack of a rushing threat. Just how big is the running game? Look at last week against Middle Tennessee. Marshall established the rushing attack early, which allowed Litton to get more open throws en route to a 250-plus yard performance with four touchdowns and no turnovers. Without that rushing presence, teams have teed off on Litton, which hasn’t allowed time for routes to open up and the pressure has gotten to him.
4. Who is a key Marshall offensive to keep an eye on in this game?
GT: Offensively, the tandem of running backs Anthony Anderson and Tony Pittman will be crucial for Marshall’s success this week. If the two can net 150 rushing yards between them, the Herd’s chances of winning go up exponentially. Without that rushing presence, the Herd will be hard-pressed to get the win featuring only a pass-heavy setup.
5. Your thoughts on Saturday's game and prediction?
GT: The performance against Middle Tennessee last week showed Marshall’s players what they could be, which resonated into the week following the ceremony to honor the 1970 plane crash. FIU’s offensive line has struggled, which allows Marshall to be aggressive in its defensive scheme – especially with a young quarterback under center. Given Marshall’s carry-over from last week’s game and FIU’s turnover issues, I think the Herd gets out of Miami with a 37-24 win over FIU.