College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Marshall vs. Florida Atlantic: Why to Back Thundering Herd

College Football Odds, Picks, Predictions for Marshall vs. Florida Atlantic: Why to Back Thundering Herd article feature image

Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Corey Gammage.

  • Marshall and FAU face off in a duel that will determine which teams sits atop the C-USA East after Week 10.
  • Both teams are riding win streaks and plenty of momentum, making this nearly a pick'em.
  • Darin Gardner dives into this college football matchup and offers up his top pick.

Marshall vs. Florida Atlantic Odds

Saturday, Nov. 6
6 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Marshall Odds
-110o / -110u
Florida Atlantic Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college football odds here.

It's a tight race at the top of the Conference USA East standings, and two of the three teams tied at the top are the ones playing in this matchup.

Marshall, Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky enter the weekend with 3-1 records in conference play, so this game on Saturday will play a big role in which ends up representing the division in the conference title game.

The teams have identical conference records and identical 5-3 overall marks, as well. Marshall entered the year as the favorite to win the conference championship, but three losses by a combined 13 points had the Herd off to a rocky start in 2021. However, they've bounced back over recent weeks, including two straight blowout wins.

For FAU, a narrow win over UTEP last week now has the Owls riding a two-game win streak, despite being out-gained 443-280 in total yards in the contest. The offense has been invisible in some games this season, but they're going to need to be locked in here against a strong Marshall defense.

Marshall Thundering Herd

Marshall Offense

Marshall has quietly had a very efficient offense this season, ranking 13th in success rate. The offensive line has been dominant, ranking ninth in pressure rate allowed and 11th in Pro Football Focus' run-blocking grade. That unit includes three of the top five highest-graded offensive linemen in Conference USA — center Alex Molette ranks first in the conference, with guard James Magee second and tackle Will Ulmer fifth.

Marshall's passing offense comes in at 27th in PFF grade, with quarterback Grant Wells tied for 16th in big-time throw rate. The Herd are very deep in pass-catchers, as well, which six guys at more than 200 receiving yards on the season. Receiver Corey Gammage has been the go-to guy, though, averaging more than eight targets per game and 587 yards on the year. Tight end Xavier Gaines has also been a focal point, ranking 14th nationally at the position in receiving yards.

On the ground, a dominant offensive line has the Herd sitting at 40th in rushing success rate. Running back Rasheen Ali has definitely been the bell cow, with 150 carries on the year, and his 574 yards after contact are tied for seventh in the country, per PFF.

This balanced Marshall attack can win in a lot of different ways.

Marshall Defense

Marshall's offense has been very good, but it could be argued that the defense has been even better. It ranks 15th in points allowed per drive and 20th in expected points added (EPA) per play.

The pass defense has been extremely effective, with top-10 rankings in EPA per throw (fifth), yards allowed per attempt (eighth) and pressure rate (sixth).

At defensive tackle, Jamare Edwards' 21 pressures leads everyone in the conference at the position, and linebacker Eli Neal has generated six sacks on just 36 pass rushes, per PFF. Additionally, Marshall's outside cornerback duo of Steven Gilmore (younger brother of Stephon) and Micah Abraham are allowing just 4.5 and 4.9 yards per target on throws into their coverage.

While Marshall has had a lot of success against the pass, it's been vulnerable against the run, ranking 68th in EPA per carry. FAU has struggled on the ground at points, but it could find some success against this group.

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Florida Atlantic Owls

FAU Offense

Overall, this FAU offense has been mediocre, ranking 62nd in available yards gained and 66th in successful drive rate.

One area it's really struggled — which is bad news against this Marshall defense — is pass protection, ranking 107th in pressure rate allowed. Additionally, FAU's receiving corps rank 98th in terms of PFF grade, which is another big edge for a Marshall defense that thrives in rushing the passing and the secondary.

At quarterback, N'Kosi Perry has earned a 74.4 PFF passing grade, which ranks 59th, but he does rank 33rd in yards per attempt. Where Perry has seen the most struggles is in the accuracy department since his adjusted completion percentage of 68.6% ranks just 109th.

The Owls' ground game has been up-and-down this season, ranking 67th in EPA per carry. It has gotten solid play from top running back Johnny Ford, however, whose 6.3 yards per carry leads all Conference USA running backs with at least 50 attempts. Ford could be an X-factor against a Marshall defense that is primarily susceptible against the run.

FAU Defense

Both pass defenses in this matchup have played very well this season, with Florida Atlantic ranked 18th in passing success rate allowed.

Safety Teja Young has been huge for this squad, currently ranking second among all safeties in PFF coverage grade while allowing a passer rating of just 36.7 on throws into his coverage. In the slot, there's also Korel Smith, who leads all Conference USA cornerbacks in coverage grade and has allowed 11 catches on 21 targets.

The secondary has been elite, but the pass rush has been very weak for the Owls. There's only one player on the team with more than one sack this season, and the defense ranks 124th overall in pressure rate. An elite Marshall offensive line should have zero issues in the passing game against this front.

FAU hasn't played many teams that can consistently move the ball on the ground, but it got gashed by the only two opponents that know how to do so. Florida diced the defense up for 8.7 yards per carry in Week 1, and then Air Force racked up 441 yards on the ground on 6.1 yards per clip. Those two games play a big factor in the Owls' rank of 98th in EPA per carry allowed, and that could be an area for this Marshall offense to exploit on Saturday.

Marshall vs. Florida Atlantic Matchup Analysis

Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Marshall and Florida Atlantic match up statistically:

Marshall Offense vs. Florida Atlantic Defense
Rush Success4034
Line Yards6154
Pass Success3818
Pass Blocking**18109
Big Play1721
Finishing Drives6014
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Florida Atlantic Offense vs. Marshall Defense
Rush Success3690
Line Yards6286
Pass Success3321
Pass Blocking**966
Big Play5324
Finishing Drives319
** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)

Pace of Play / Other
PFF Tackling3842
Middle 83513
SP+ Special Teams9293
Plays per Minute530
Rush Rate47.5% (113)56.3% (57)

Data via College Football Data, FootballOutsiders, SP+, PFF and SportSource Analytics.

Marshall vs. Florida Atlantic Betting Pick

Personally, I'm having a hard time seeing why Marshall is such a short favorite here. The defense has been elite, and the offense has been much more trustworthy than FAU's.

It's important to remember that the market is incredibly efficient at this point in the week and there's probably a good reason for the spread being so tight, but I really like the Herd at this price.

Pick: Marshall -1

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