Herd's Focus Now on Central Michigan

Marshall scored its fourth consecutive win of the season in record-setting fashion last Saturday in Buffalo, and now the Herd turns its focus to Homecoming and the Chippewas of Central Michigan. Game Preview.

Central Michigan (0-1, 2-3 MAC W) brings a balanced, yet relatively inexplosive offense to Huntington behind QB Derrick Vickers and a bevy of talented running backs. Central offers a three-back rotation similar to Marshall's including Terrence Jackson, Robbie Mixon, and Kenan Lawhorne, who average nearly 4 yards per carry each.

The Chippewas have two victories on the year, most recently losing to the Bobcats of Ohio, 34-3. Buffalo, who Marshall defeated 34-14 last week, played Central Michigan closely in a 16-8 loss to the Chippewas. If those games offer any insight into the future, Marshall should be dominant in this game.

Marshall has played better football every week so far this year and this game should draw a close to the ongoing team suspensions that have been in effect since the season opener at Florida. Byron Leftwich passed for a career-best 455 yards, and with 37 completions broke the team single-game record formerly held by Michael Payton.

On the downside, the Herd will be without starting center Jeff Edwards due to the neck sprain suffered during the UB game, but reserve Joey Stepp played well in reserve duty.The loss of a starter is always something that opposing coaches will try to use to their advantage. Expect Central Michigan to try attacking up the middle to disrupt the offense and get to Byron Leftwich at the expense of a backup player. Marshall, however, has more depth and strength along the front line this year as opposed to last year.
Statistically, here's how the teams match up:

Record:4-1 (2-0 MAC E)
Points Scored: 171
Points Allowed: 129
Last Week :W @ Buffalo 34-14
Rush Off.: 656
Pass Off.: 1571
Rush Def.: 734
Pass Def.: 1187
Penalties: 48-409 yds.
Turnover Margin +3
Team Rating 55.51
Key Player(s) QB Byron Leftwich, TE Gregg Kellett, LB Michael Owens

Central Michigan:
Record:2-3 (0-1 MAC W)
Points Scored: 110
Points Allowed: 157
Last Week :L vs. Ohio, 34-3
Rush Off.: 905
Pass Off.: 1571
Rush Def.: 734
Pass Def.: 1187
Penalties: 43-346 yds.
Turnover Margin even
Team Rating 42.53
Key Player(s) QB Derrick Vickers, RB Terence Jackson, DT Josh Skeel

Marshall will once again face a good pass defense team, but proved last week that is not necessarily a problem. Few Mid-American Conference teams will ace a quarterback as good as Byron Leftwich, who is capable of picking apart a defense that is unable to get into the backfield and sack him. Another big problem that Central faces is that the defense that has allowed more rushing yards (1092) than passing yards (880). This is another opportunity for Marshall's running backs to have a big day and give Byron the freedom to pass the ball downfield.

Keys to Winning - Central Michigan:
- The Chippewas will need to keep Marshall off balance on both sides of the ball by mixing up their schemes and keep Marshall guessing at Central's next move. Forcing turnovers will be paramount to success for Central Michigan, but the Chippewas may need some help from Marshall miscues, which was the case last week for the Herd at Buffalo. Two interceptions and a lost fumble kept the score much closer tha it could have been.

Keys to Winning - Marshall:
- If the Herd can establish a running game the passing game should open up and points will likely go up on the board several times. Marshall must also continue to improve on the defensive side of the ball and get the ball away from Central's capable offense. The more the Herd offense and Chippewas defense in on the field, the better for Marshall.

Marshall has been on a roll as of late, and the Herd fans should have another reason to smile this week. Homecoming games in Huntington are a time for celebration, high spirits, and victory for the Herd.

Prediction: Marshall 45 - Central Michigan 17


Sources: stats and names courtesy of midamconf.com and espn.com

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