Photo courtesy of Florida Atlantic athletics
Currently, there are three teams tied atop the Conference USA East standings. Two of them will meet on Saturday.
Despite handing Charlotte and UTEP their first conference losses in each of the last two weeks, Florida Atlantic will be a home underdog as Marshall comes to Boca Raton. Both teams arrive with overall records of 5-3 and conference marks of 3-1.
FAU ranks fourth in the conference in both scoring and total offense. Quarterback N’Kosi Perry is having a solid season with 19 total touchdowns and just four interceptions. For the Owls’ offense, running backs Johnny Ford, Malcolm Davidson and wide receiver LaJohntay Wester are the players to watch.
Defensively, Marshall ranks second in Conference USA and in the top 25 nationally in scoring defense. After a rough start, the Thundering Herd have allowed just 34 total points during their 3-game winning streak and shut out Florida International last week, 38-0.
What Marshall does best is rush the passer. It leads Conference USA and ranks eighth nationally with 28 total sacks. Eli Neal leads the team with five sacks. As a team, Marshall has nine different players with at least 1.5 sacks this season.
Grant Wells is an experienced quarterback for the Marshall offense, but he has struggled with turnovers this season. Nationally, only Tulsa’s Davis Brin has thrown more interceptions than Wells’ 10.
Running back Rasheen Ali leads the skill players. For the season, he has more than 800 yards rushing and ranks second nationally with 15 rushing touchdowns. Corey Gammage is the guy to watch out wide.
FAU doesn’t jump off the stat sheet defensively, but typically does a good job keeping opponents off the scoreboard. Linebacker Akileis Leroy is very experienced, but the strength for FAU may be in the secondary. Safety Jordan Helms is the leading tackler while Zyon Gilbert is an outstanding cover corner.
Marshall has won the last three in the series, including a 20-9 victory last season. Well passed for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns while the Marshall defense held the Owls to 234 yards. Saturday’s contest begins at 6 p.m. ET and airs on CBS Sports Network.
Prediction: Marshall 23, Florida Atlantic 21
Other Games Across the State
Georgia Tech (3-5) at Miami (4-4)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 12:30 p.m. ET (Regional Sports Networks)
Don’t look now, but Miami has defeated ranked teams in consecutive weeks. A big reason for the Hurricanes’ resurgence is the play of quarterback Tyler Van Dyke. Georgia Tech has won the last two in the series.
Prediction: Miami 38, Georgia Tech 24
Tulane (1-7) at UCF (5-3)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
It took awhile for UCF to find its footing without quarterback Dillon Gabriel, but the Knights have played great in consecutive weeks, particularly on defense. Tulane is the only remaining American Athletic Conference team without a conference victory.
Prediction: UCF 45, Tulane 17
No. 19 NC State (6-2) at Florida State (3-5)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 4 p.m. ET (ACC Network)
Florida State watched its 3-game winning streak come to an end last week at Clemson, but returns home to take on NC State. The Wolfpack have won three of the last four in the series and control their own ACC destiny. They are just 1-2 on the road this season.
Prediction: Florida State 28, NC State 26
Old Dominion (2-6) at Florida International (1-7)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Florida International has lost seven straight games and is one of two Conference USA teams without a conference victory. After some hard-fought losses, Old Dominion snapped a 5-game losing streak last week.
Prediction: Old Dominion 33, Florida International 29
Florida (4-4) at South Carolina (4-4)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Once a top-10 team, Florida has fallen to 4-4 after losing three of four. The Gators have won three straight since South Carolina. Jason Brown will make his first start at quarterback for the Gamecocks.
Prediction: Florida 34, South Carolina 16
Houston (7-1) at South Florida (2-6)
Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
South Florida’s winning streak over FBS teams ended last week at one. Houston pulled off a thrilling victory over previously-undefeated SMU last week. The Cougars were snubbed in the first College Football Playoff rankings, but are ranked in the AP Poll for the first time under third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Prediction: Houston 48, South Florida 30
Houston Texans (1-7) at Miami Dolphins (1-7)
Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
In what could be called the “Deshaun Watson Bowl”, the Miami Dolphins will host the Houston Texans in a battle of the AFC’s worst two teams. Both teams have lost seven straight after season-opening wins.
Prediction: Miami 27, Houston 20
Buffalo Bills (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6)
Sunday, Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
After two road contests and another game in London, the Jacksonville Jaguars will play their first true home game in nearly a month. This will be the second of three trips to Florida for the Buffalo Bills this season.
Prediction: Buffalo 41, Jacksonville 17
Mike Ferguson is the managing editor for Fifth Quarter. Be sure to follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFerguson. Follow all of Mike’s work by liking his Facebook page.