The Bearcats head to Marshall this Saturday for a match-up with another one of the Group of Five’s top teams.
The Thundering Herd enter the game with a 2-1 mark, having pounded VMI in week 1 and dropping a close contest on the road to a rugged Boise State team. In their third contest, Marshall outlasted MAC favorite Ohio in a 33-31 shootout.
Marshall is one of the favorites in Conference USA, returning a strong cast from a club that won 9 games last season.
Marshall is led by sophomore sensation Isaiah Green, who was the C-USA Newcomer of the Year in 2018. In just nine starts, Green threw for nearly 2,500 yards last season and gained another 400 on the ground. In 2019, he is exceeding that pace and has cut down on a tendency to throw interceptions in desperate situations.
Two Saturdays ago, Green outgunned Ohio’s heralded Nathan Rourke, posting more than 250 yards on the ground and in the air. Green is one of the most versatile quarterbacks in the Group of Five.
Green lacks a go-to receiver but has made use of a cadre of targets early this season. In each of the Thundering Herd’s previous contests, Green has completed passes to 10 or more targets. Marshall’s best pass catcher is probably safety valve tight end Armani Levias.
The Thundering Herd have a robust, two-headed running attack. Against Ohio, burly tailback Brenden Knox barreled for 133 yards on 16 carries. Knox garnered most of these yards between the tackles, which will be a challenge for the Cincinnati defensive front. Shelden Evans is a speedier change-up for the Thundering Herd, who posted 77 yards against the Bobcats.
Marshall returns a veteran offense line, which is anchored by junior right guard Cain Madden, who is considered a serious NFL prospect.
In recent years, the Thundering Herd have finished near the top of C-USA in every defense category. This year will be no different. Marshall has a particularly strong secondary, which will pose some matchup problems on the outside for the Bearcats.
Marshall starts four seniors along their defensive front, including dangerous pass rusher Marquis Couch.
Despite Marshall’s experience and skill on the D-Line, they are small, averaging just over 250 pounds each. This will provide Cincinnati with an opportunity to push the smaller Marshall team around in the running game.
Marshall’s linebackers are lacking in size and experience, which will also serve the Bearcats well as they try to assert themselves on the ground.
The real strength of the Marshall defense is their secondary.
Cornerbacks Chris Johnson and Kereon Merrell are both veterans and seniors. They both stand at 6’0 tall or better. They played particularly physically against Boise State’s talented perimeter players and shut them down all afternoon.
Expect Saturday afternoon to be a tussle between two of the top teams in the Group of Five.