It's time for "Friday Night Lights" and thank God this game is being played in Huntington and not here.Not that you don't want every home game you can get your hands on, but for the fact that we're so "ate up" with prep football around here.
This is one of the few areas where when people ask, "What school did you go too?" the response is usually a high school.
Some of you loyalists will catch the ESPN feed at home or a watering hole, while some of you can catch my friends on 700WLW while you're out at one of the aforementioned high school games.And, since the Reds tanked and are done, the 700WLW games can also be caught on XM173 if you have a satellite radio and are driving around Waco, Santa Fe, Fresno or northernmost Walla Walla.
You should catch a good one either way, although this one has its own set of fears and trepidation for those of us that follow the college game.
Much like the Akron game, you're playing a non-BCS team on their own field (it's a return game) and that's something that should end as long as Brian Kelly keeps the Bearcat train rolling.In the future, the Akrons and Marshalls will come to the Nipp as UC should become like the OSUs and others that'll play you as long as it's on their lined-out turf.
Sure, it sounds big-headed, but that's the way the collegiate football food chain works.Win and everybody plays by your rules, slip and fall and then you're back on the bus for a road game in Toledo or Ypsilanti.
The sidebar of this game is that it's UC's first game taking on a former coach other than Watson Brown that I can recall.Rick Minter is Marshall's new defensive coordinator and that makes for interesting copy as Rick's son Jesse is a Brian Kelly grad assistant.
Minter actually watched a number of practices last year and attended several home games in the stands which allowed many fans the opportunity to thank him for his service.
While you'd think that would give Rick an advantage, I'm not so sure now.Minter saw primarily Ben Mauk and Dustin Grutza running the Bearcat offense.If Tony Pike were still behind center, I'd still say Minter might have an edge since Pike's presence really had no effect on how the offense was run.
However, with UC looking at a tandem of Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson (and maybe a threesome if you throw in Demetrius Jones) I don't think he'll know what to expect for sure.Come Friday at 8 p.m., we'll all find out.
For now, I'll give you these ramblings to chew on.....
WHEN:Friday at 8 p.m. (didn't you read the whole preamble?)
LAST TIME OUT:Bearcats hammered Herd 40-14 last year at Nippert.
UC OFFENSE VS. MARSHALL DEFENSE
I kind of covered this above, but with UC probably running Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson out against Mark Snyder (Marshall HC) and DC Rick Minter they probably don't know what BK has up his sleeve.Rest assured, #12 and #14 will be blitzed and pressured and razzed and ragged on.Coach Snyder has the crowd in "White Out" mode (although I'm not so sure why matching shirts puts the fear of God in anyone).He's also made it clear that UC's running a young QB out there.I've not had the impression this week that UC is fazed all that much by a new starting QB.That could be the case Friday night, but BK and the staff have been through this before at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan and they've been able to "insert the right part" and come away with a plan.From what I see and know, if Collaros has any success throwing the ball, the Bearcats could be in business because he has Mauk-like tendencies in the area of playmaking.I'm not sure Demetrius Jones is an option in this one, due to Minter's familiarity with him at Notre Dame.UC's offensive line will be challenged by former C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Albert McClellan.Last year's score is a bit deceiving as Marshall's defensive unit was banged up.
Nod:This game is extremely tough to call, as you don't have a great sampling of the UC QB work to base a good opinion.On a hunch, I believe Collaros will play better than people think.However, with an amped-up crowd trying to make a statement, Minter's men in green could make it difficult.
MARSHALL OFFENSE VS. UC DEFENSE
Marshall also runs out a redshirt freshman at QB in Mark Cann.He's led them to as many wins as they had all of last year and the last one came at Southern Miss.Having covered numerous UC/Southern Miss games in Hattiesburg over the years on radio, I can tell you that a win down there doesn't come easy.UC can't let Cann get out of trouble and make plays like the Akron and Miami (OH) QBs did the past two games.If he does, you'll have to look for Herd weapons Darius Passmore at WR and RB Darius Marshall.
Passmore has 5 TD's and also runs the ball on occasion.With Drew Frey out, Brandon Underwood has to make the move to safety.That's not all bad as I think D'Angelo Smith is better on the corner anyway.Mike Mickens has had back to back superb games--for UC to succeed at Marshall--this will have to be another one.
Nod:UC has yet to put out a complete defensive effort that I'm satisfied with.Thing is, they don't have to satisfy me.Trust me though; these coaches are still looking for that "knockout" performance.I don't think it will be here, but I do look for a better showing as the offenses only get better from here.
Jake Rogers seems back on track after hitting FGs in consecutive games, including belting the game-winning 48-yarder at Akron.Kevin Huber is at 46.5 yards per whack, so you can't complain there.On the return end, while UC has Mardy Gilyard, Marshall has Marshall...Darius Marshall.Against West Virginia last week, D. Marshall had returns of 75 and 64 yards.The Herd's placekicking has been handled by three different guys so far, the only thing I can tell you there is they have not attempted a kick beyond 40 yards this season.
Nod:Assuming they can put a helmet on Darius Marshall or keep it away from him, I give UC the edge here.
THROW IT OUT AND SEE WHERE IT STICKS
Marshall football is one of those institutions that's religion for those that follow it.They've had dominant teams in the past and their legend and talent is noteworthy.Having lost in the Fort Worth Bowl to Dantonio's `Cats, plus the spanking at the hands of the BK Bearcats last year, revenge is clearly on the mind of Herd fans and players.Add in the Minter factor and there's plenty of motivation for the Thundering Herd in this one.This is not the week you'd like to roll into Huntington with an unproven QB, but--when is?I do have confidence in Kelly's staff in preparing QBs and the last four QBs in Kelly UC debuts have all had success and won (Davila--International Bowl, Mauk--SE Missouri St., Grutza-Miami , and Pike-Miami).As long as Matthew McConaughey and Mathew Fox don't show up on the Marshall sideline, I think UC can sneak out of Huntington in the darkness of night with a win.I don't believe it'll be easy though.