C-USA Championship: Setting Stage For Rice vs. Marshall
By Dan Harralson
Marshall and Rice both took care of business last week and the two now will square off in the Conference USA championship game.
Rice has put together the season most believe Tulsa should have had, but Rice head coach David Bailiff turned his team into the West Division champion. Marshall is playing as good as anybody in Conference USA and the Thundering Herd are coming off their 59-28 drubbing of a good East Carolina team.
Marshall has the best quarterback in the conference, Rakeem Cato, and he will take his game on the road to Rice with a championship on the line.
Marshall Offense vs. Rice Defense
Marshall has the horses on offense and will be going against the nation's 18th-ranked defense. This will be the highlight matchup in the contest.
Cato has thrown for 3,314 yards and 34 touchdowns, which has created 44.6 points per game offensively for The Herd. Marshall ranks sixth overall among FBS teams, behind only Baylor, Florida State, Ohio State, Fresno State and Oregon.
Rice only allows 22 points per game in a conference that fields many offensive-oriented teams.
The Owls have only given up 30 or more points three times this season; Marshall's offense has broken the 30-point mark in 10 games. The Herd have scored at least 45 points in two-thirds of its games, including 61 against Southern Miss and 59 against East Carolina.
The Rice defense will have to slow down the Marshall air attack, which on paper favors the Owls and a pass defense that ranks 13th nationally. Marshall, though, counters with one of the fastest of the in-vogue hurry-up offenses.
The Other Side
Even if Rice can slow down Marshall's passing attack, the Owls will need to produce offense. David Bailiff's Owls are productive, averaging 30.6 points per game, but his team only ranks 58th nationally in scoring offense.