Coming into the year, people knew that the Marshall Thundering Herd had some solid returning pieces, but no one could have guessed they would start the season 9-0 — one of three teams to do so. The Rice Owls are in control of their own destiny and a win here along with two more wins in their final two games could ensure that this is a Conference USA title game preview — a rematch of last year’s title game in which Rice won.
Marshall has surprisingly been one of the best offensive teams in the nation this year, ranking 37th in pass yards, seventh in rush yards and second in points per game. Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato has been dynamite for the Herd, racking up 2,316 passing yards and 22 touchdowns as well as 347 yards and six TDs on the ground — fourth on the team in rushing. Junior running back Devon Johnson has nearly tripled the rush yards of the next closest back, accounting for 1,203 yards and 15 touchdowns. Tommy Shuler has been the other top weapon on offense, recording a team-high 526 receiving yards and six touchdowns while the next closest wide out, Angelo Jean-Louis, has 396 yards and four scores on 16 receptions.
After starting the year 0-3, the Owls have won six straight games and the offense has stepped up its game. Driphus Jackson has been a solid dual-threat quarterback, passing for 1,861 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 330 yards and another score. Jackson’s favorite target has been senior wide out Jordan Taylor who has 28 catches for 520 yards and four touchdowns followed by senior Mario Hull who has 19 catches for 335 yards and four touchdown receptions of his own. The run game has been a tad more impressive as sophomore Jowan Davis leads the way with 748 yards and five scores while Darik Dillard has a team-high seven rushing TDs along with 568 yards.
Defensively, the Owls have been above average this season. Rice’s six wins can be attributed, somewhat, to the defense, ranking 39th in total yards allowed but just 64th in points allowed per game. Marshall, on the other hand, has been stellar this year, ranking sixth in points allowed per game and 23rd in yards allowed per game, leading to a 9-0 record — one of three unbeaten teams left in college football.
Rice will travel to Marshall to take on the Thundering Herd at 2:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 15. The game will be broadcasted on local listings.
PREDICTION: Rice 21, Marshall 38
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.