UCF Knights vs. Marshall Thundering Herd
Location: Orlando, Florida (Bright House Networks Stadium)
Time: Sunday, 8:15 p.m. EST
Records: UCF 4-3 (2-2 Conference USA), Marshall 5-3 (3-1 Conference USA)
UCF: The Knights are looking to win consecutive games for the first time this season. Last week, the Knights pulverized a lowly Rice team, as they pounded the Owls 49-7. In a game where everything clicked on both sides of the ball, the Knights will look to take that momentum with them in a must-win game against Marshall.
Marshall: It's an equally big game for the Thundering Herd, who need this game to stay in tied atop the division standings. Marshall has taken care of business against lesser opponents and has fallen short against favorites, so they have the tendency to do exactly what's expected of them.
UCF Offense vs. Marshall Defense
UCF: Everything was clicking for the Knights last week as they had their way with Rice. Brett Hodges wasn't at his sharpest but he managed the game well and put the ball into the hands of his playmakers, especially A.J. Guyton who had 103 yards receiving and a touchdown. The offensive line is gelling well and Brynn Harvey is developing into the back that the staff envisioned that he would be. The Knights are beginning to open things up more as Charlie Taaffe becomes more comfortable with what his players can do.
Marshall: The defense is coming off a stellar performance against UAB in which it gave up just 7 points. The Thundering Herd ranks 85th in the nation in total defense, but that number is skewed some after Marshall gave up over 600 yards against Virginia Tech. In conference games, Marshall's base 4-3 defense has actually been fairly stingy, especially against the pass. The team is a little undersized upfront but the Herd uses an assortment of blitzes to get to the quarterback, with end Albert McClellan and weak side backer Mario Harvey leading the way with three apiece. Both are tremendous talents with knacks for making big plays and they cause opponents to account for them at all times.
Key Matchup: UCF's tackles vs. Marshall's ends- Jah Reid and Nick Pieschel have both come a long way this season but they'll have their hands full against the Thundering Herd. Marshall will try to get a lot of pressure off the edges in the passing game and Reid and Pieschel must be stout. More importantly, the two need to execute their assignments in the run game because Marshall's ends have the tendency to get into the backfield.
UCF Defense vs. Marshall Defense
UCF: The Knights are one of the nation's premiere pass-rushing teams with Torrell Troup clogging the middle and ends Jarvis Geathers (seven sacks) and Bruce Miller (6.5) finishing the job. UCF's front seven has been tremendous for most of the season, excluding a bizarre game against ECU, and the secondary is starting to come around. True freshmen Josh Robinson and Kemal Ishmael are stepping up but the unit is still very raw and inconsistent.
Marshall: It all starts and ends with Marshall, Darius Marshall that is. The scat-back is the nation's second leading rusher averaging 136 yards per game. He is a big play waiting to happen and can beat you by getting five yards a clip or by making a cutback and getting a 75-yard run. Marshall's line is a large reason for the success on the ground. The unit averages over 300 lbs. per starter and the big uglies are starting to gel just like UCF's line. Brian Anderson is the team's quarterback and he's been little more than a game manager, as he's thrown seven touchdowns to seven picks. He is fairly accurate though and can get the ball to ultra-productive tight end Cody Slate after the run game has been established.
Key Matchup: UCF's linebackers vs. Darius Marshall- It will be a battle in the trenches amongst the two lines so Marshall's ability to score will come with what they do in terms of finding creases to break through. If UCF's backers play their gap responsibility appropriately and don't overpressure, it will really hinder what the Thundering Herd are trying to do.
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