The Marshall Thundering Herd from Conference-USA will host the East Carolina Pirates from the AAC on Saturday night. Marshall is off to 2-0 straight-up start and East Carolina is 0-2.
East Carolina looks for first winIn 2020, East Carolina went 3-6 overall and 3-5 in the AAC. The Pirates welcomed back 10 starters on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball and was predicted to finish tied with Navy for eighth place in the conference according to the Media Poll.
ECU has opened up the season with two tough losses falling to Appalachian State 33-19 in Charlotte as a nine-point underdog and then 20-17 as a three-point home dog to South Carolina. The Pirates led the Gamecocks 14-7 at halftime and 17-14 with less than seven minutes left in the game last Saturday, but South Carolina would rally to make a 36-yard field goal as time expired to seal the win.
HOT READ: East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers off to rocky start— Free @PR927FM (@freepr927fm) September 16, 2021
"You can see he's a veteran. He doesn't get rattled. Those guys have played two phenomenal opponents in App State and South Carolina” Coach Huff https://t.co/cYpH2choGk
The loss to the Gamecocks was mostly a defensive struggle, with South Carolina outgaining East Carolina 320 to 268 yards for the game. East Carolina picked up 116 rushing yards on 38 attempts with a touchdown. The Pirates struck first on a trick play 75-year touchdown pass from wide receiver Tyler Sneed to Jsi Hatfield in the first quarter. Besides the trick play, the rest of ECU's passing yards came from fourth-year junior quarterback, Holton Ahlers, who went 11 of 24 with 77 yards with two interceptions. Ahlers has completed 56.7% of his passes for 7,465 yards with 53 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in his career for the Pirates.
Marshall dominate in first two winsThe Marshall Thundering Herd finished with a 7-3 overall and 4-1 conference record last season and welcomed nine offensive and four defensive starters back. Marshall was picked as the favorite in the C-USA East Division according to the preseason Media Poll.
Last week Marshall, went on the road and opened the season with a 49-7 win as a 3.5-point to Navy and a 44-10 home win as a 43.5-point favorite against North Carolina Central last Saturday.
Marshall outgained Navy in the first game, 464 to 398 in total yardage. Individually the Thundering Herd's passing leader is 2020 C-USA Freshman of the Year, quarterback Grant Wells. Wells completed 20 of 30 passes for 333 yards with two interceptions against the Midshipmen, and Rasheen Ali, a second-year freshman, rushed for 59 yards on 14 carries with four touchdowns in the win.
Against North Carolina Central, Marshall dominated the total yardage battle 703 to 164. Wells went 34 for 48 passing for 344 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in the game. Collectively, seven played combined for 243 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 42 attempts for the Thundering Herd.
- ECU is 4-12-1 ATS in their last 17 non-conference games.
- Marshall is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The offense was the strength of East Carolina last season (50th in the nation averaging 30.2 ppg in 2020), but they struggled to get stops defensively (102nd in the nation allowing 35.4 ppg in 2020). The Pirates offense has struggled this year, and I find it hard to see them keeping against the Herd's stifling defense. Marshall ranked first in the nation in 2020, holding opponents to 13 ppg and second, allowing just 279.4 yards. The Herd is off to another strong start this season, allowing an average of 281 yards and 8.5 points over the first two games.
The Thundering Herd routed Navy; a team ranked No. 88 in Athlon's preseason predictions by 42 points in the season opener. According to Athlon Sports, East Carolina was ranked No. 87, and according to the Media Poll, it was predicted to finish in the same spot as Navy within the conference. I see Marshall creating issues for ECU offense and setting their offense up in a good situation on their way to covering the number.
Full-Game Total Pick
Dating back to last year, Marshall has held opponents to 22 points or less in 12 straight games and will face an ECU offense that scored below 20 points in each of its first two games this season. Since I don't expect the Pirates to exceed 21 points, it would take at least 38 points from Marshall for this game to go over the total. I don't expect another 40+ point performance from Marshall, who averaged 28.5 ppg last season, going up against an East Carolina defense that welcomed back 10 starters from last year and has shown improvement through its first two games.
So far, Marshal combined for 56 points against Navy and for 54 points against North Carolina Central, and ECU has combined for 52 points with Appalachian State and 37 points with South Carolina. The total in this game opened up at 53.5, and now that it has jumped up to 58.5 seems too high. I recommend grabbing the under.