Less than 48 hours after the death of a teammate, the Memphis Tigers will have football on their minds with the home crowd behind them against the Marshall Thundering Herd.
These teams are both struggling. After getting crushed by UCF in their conference opener, the Memphis Tigers blew a 31-6 lead last Thursday and lost 35-31 at Arkansas State. That dropped them to 1-3 overall. The Thundering Herd of Marshall, who will be playing their conference opener, are 0-4, having given up 41.8 points per game. All four losses have been by double-digits, coming by an average of 23 points.
Yes, this is a difficult scheduling situation for the Tigers as they will be playing on a short week and playing their third game in the past 11 days. However, I believe that that they'll have a few significant advantages which will more than compensate for the lack of rest.
For starters, they're playing at home. That's noteworthy as Memphis crushed Marshall 26-3 in the lone meeting here which came in 2005, and the Thundering Herd are a dismal 2-16-1 ATS their last 19 road games, including 0-4 SU/ATS the last four. Secondly, in addition to being a poor team, the Herd remain extremely banged-up, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The biggest loss came when junior defensive end Albert McClellan, the C-USA defensive player of the year, suffered a season-ending knee injury in August. Since then, Marshall has lost defensive end John Jacobs, defensive tackle Montel Glasco and safety Aaron Johnson to injuries.
Cornerback Zearrick Matthews finally returned last week after missing a month with a broken arm. In their absence, true freshman Shane Moore stepped up at tackle. However, even he left the field on crutches with a sprained ankle following last week's 40-14 loss at Cincinnati. One of the remaining defensive leaders, middle linebacker Josh Johnson, hobbled off the field with a sprained ankle in the first quarter. He returned later in the game but obviously wasn't the same. The extra gap in between games will help, but not enough.
Additionally, the Tigers will have payback on their minds. Last year at Marshall, they outgained the Thundering Herd by a 469-408 margin (the most yards they got all season) but lost 41-27 due to four turnovers. Even before the injuries had hit Marshall, Memphis brought back significantly more starters from last year.
The home team has won by an average of 19 points in this series. While tonight's game figures to be closer, the home team should manage to prevail once again. Consider laying the small number.
Free Pick: Memphis -2½ (-110)