Louisville v. Marshall Preview
Last Time: After defeating Kentucky for the first time since 2011, Teddy Bridgewater made his first career start against the Marshall Thundering Herd. In spite of having a halftime lead, Marshall rallied with 10 points in the second half to pull off a 17-13 comeback win in Louisville.
Louisville leads the all-time series 16-12, but Marshall has won the last four including the 1998 Motor City Bowl and 2002 GMAC Bowl.
About the Marshall Thundering Herd
Doc Holliday enters his seventh season as the head coach of the Marshall Thundering Herd, and since his arrival, has led them to becoming one of the top Group of Five schools in the country. Holliday led the Herd to a top 25 appearance in the final polls of the 2014 season, but that did not stop him from leading the Herd to another 10-win season in 2015.
With Marshall, their recent reputation is predicated on high scoring offense. Holliday has had tremendous success with Rakeem Cato, and he may have another solid guy in Chase Litton. Litton came in as a true freshman last season, and helped lead Marshall to another 10-win season. Litton’s had an impressive start with great accuracy and ten touchdowns, but had a lot of poor turnovers against Akron last week. Litton may not be the premier name in the 2018 or 2019 draft class, but he knows his personnel and can distribute the ball to plenty of receivers. This offense should be one of the best in Conference USA this season, and may give Louisville an occasional challenge tomorrow night.
Defensively, Chuck Heater is the coordinator for a group that has somewhat been underrated in recent years. Holliday’s offenses tend to be the main story when the Herd are mentioned, but Heater’s defense finished in the top 40 in S&P+ last season. However, where the Herd has struggled on defense is in pass coverage. They gave up 49 to Western Kentucky last season (which may be a tad bit misleading, due to Marshall usually performing stronger at home than away), but giving up 65 to Akron last week was very surprising. Although Akron got three non-offensive touchdowns in the game, allowing almost 400 yards and four touchdowns has to be a huge concern for the Herd, especially with Lamar Jackson coming to town.
Players to Watch:
- QB Chase Litton: Holliday already has had one solid quarterback under his resume in Cato, and now he may have another in Litton. He’s not a guy that will be asked to do a lot of run options or scramble, but Litton trusts his receivers and do what is expected of him in this offense. Litton had an impressive outing against Morgan State with 300+ yards and six touchdowns, and four touchdowns against Akron. But with turnovers from him plaguing the Marshall defense last week and resulting in points for Akron, Litton will have to be at his best to give Marshall a shot.
- WR Michael Clark: Marshall has a lot of talented receivers from tight end Ryan Yurachek and Josh Knight, but Clark is the most intriguing guy in Marshall’s receiving corps. At 6’7″, he gives Litton a popular red zone target, especially with Clark’s basketball background. Louisville showed some issues trying to cover guys like Clark in the red zone at Syracuse, and if Marshall finds their way into the end zone, he could be the go-to guy for Litton.
- DE Ryan Bee: Bee is an intriguing defensive end with a lot of length, and he knows how to use it. Bee can stretch outside and use that length to disrupt both passing and running lanes, and that can free up tackles and blitzers to try and contain Louisville’s dominant option game. Marshall may need more than Ryan Bee to be able to stop Lamar Jackson, but he’ll at least be the first line of defense if Lamar chooses to keep it himself.
Keys to the Game:
- Find success passing. Even with three non-offensive touchdowns from Akron on Saturday, Akron still had great success throwing the football and taking shots downfield against the Herd. Louisville must take advantage of its favorable matchups, especially one-on-one or deep. Guys like Jamari Staples and Jaylen Smith could provide Louisville with great matchups, as Marshall struggled against bigger receivers last week. This could be another game where Jackson has a monster outing through the air.
- Limit Litton. It goes without saying that as Litton goes in the Marshall offense, so will the Herd. Louisville should look to continue to dominate Marshall’s offensive line and break their protection, after dominating Florida State last week. Being able to disrupt Litton, who doesn’t necessarily scramble a lot, could create turnovers and force Marshall into uncomfortable 3rd-and-long situations.
- Do not lose pass coverage. With how often Marshall likes to swap out different receivers and use different personnel groups, alignments and knowing responsibilities in pass coverage will be key for Louisville in this game. On top of trying to pressure Litton, Louisville has to prevent any big play opportunities that Marshall will try to exploit, especially early in the game to potentially get the crowd excited.
Justin Krueger: 52-13. Marshall might be able to keep it closer than this score because they are always a tough team on their home-field, but it’s tough to see how they will either (A) contain Lamar Jackson running, or (B) letting Lamar throw all over the field. Option B might be my main pick here, and Lamar has a great passing clinic en route to a cruising victory.
Paige Sherrard: 42-10.
Jake McKinney: 63-13.
Jeff Nunn: 49-14.
Mitch Motley: 63-10.
LJ The Fiasco: 42-24
Jacob Pratt: 70-16