The Owls will take on Marshall for the fourth time this weekend and trail 0-3 in the series. But at 1-4 this year's version of the Herd isn't anything like it has been in prior meetings. Or is it?
Still, FAU has a lot to prove while remaining hopeful they can pull off a meaningful road upset that would end a five game slide in the win column.
The teams will kickoff on Saturday at 7:00 pm on the American Sports Network.
Special thanks to Chris McLaughlin at HerdNation.com for taking the time to answer these questions and offer his perspective on this week's game. Be sure to check them out on Twitter as well at @HerdNation.
How solid of a footing is Doc Holliday on despite his struggles this year?
Despite an embarrassing start to the 2016 season Doc Hollidayís job at Marshall is as secure as secure can get. From 2013 to 2015 Hollidayís teams were a robust 33-8, which included three straight bowl wins over Maryland, Northern Illinois and UCONN. Thatís a lot of good will he would have to burn through for Marshall Athletic Director Mike Hamrick to even begin to think about replacing him. Plus, Hollidayís buyout is huge, especially for a cash-strapped athletic department like Marshallís.
How does the Marshall fanbase feel about the direction of the program?
Mixed, to be honest. Most Marshall fans expected losses to Louisville and Pitt but the North Texas and Akron losses have been especially tough pills to swallow. The debacle against the Zips was the programís worst home loss since falling to New Hampshire in 2007. Marshallís offensive coordinator Bill Legg has received the heaviest of the fire from Marshall fans, most of whom are quickly tiring of watching an offense they consider schematically much too simple. If Marshall was to lose this weekend to FAU I think things will get ugly in a hurry. The crowd for the October 22nd match-up against Charlotte would likely be sparse, and thatís putting it mildly.
Whatís been the biggest thing keeping Marshall from getting back into the win column over the past few weeks?
Itís tough to say being that Marshallís four consecutive recent losses have all been unique. Against Akron, Marshallís defense was torn up to the tune of 524 yards. The Herd was simply outmatched against Louisville but failed to show up in the first half against Pitt and found themselves down 27-0 at halftime. Marshallís offense was sporadic (at-best) against North Texas and the defense was once again gashed, only this time on the ground. Thatís been the problem with Marshall this year, not one single unit has been clicking on all cylanders week in and week out. Theyíve all, and that includes special teams, struggled. Thatís scary for Marshall fans.
When you look at this game with FAU, what are your biggest match-up concerns for Marshall?
I worry about the team being flat. Reports out of practice are that the team has been going through the motions and frustration levels are running very high. If a few things donít go Marshallís way early on, things could get ugly in terms of effort.
On to a couple of things a little more tangible: I would expect RB Greg Howell to have a nice day against Marshallís defense. The Herdís front seven is extremely young and hasnít really slowed down an opponentís running game all year (Morgan State game notwithstanding). I would look for Kalib Woods to have a solid day as well. Marshallís secondary was decimated by graduation and transfer losses at the defensive back position following last season and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has had to reply on true freshman Chris Jackson, who has repeatedly been burned all season long.
How do you see Marshall attacking FAU?
I know a lot of Marshall fans are expecting this to be the week Marshallís running game gets going but Iím of the opinion that if Marshall is to score a bunch of points Saturday theyíll have to do it through the air. WR Michael Clark has been borderline unstoppable so far and Ryan Yurachek is one of the better pass-catching tight ends in the country. Those are the two guys QB Chase Litton will need to look for early and often in order for the Herd to get off to a fast start offensively.
Lastly, what is your score prediction and breakdown for Saturday?
My heart tells me Marshall gets back to being Marshall but my head tells me the 2016 version of Marshall is miles away from what Herd fans are accustomed to in Huntington. I think Saturdayís game will be a close one throughout and Iíll pick Marshall to win 35-31, but Iím far from confident in that prediction.