Pick Marshall ATS vs. Louisiana Tech for C-USA Championship Game

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 9:57 PM GMT

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014 9:57 PM GMT

If you like offense, then Saturday afternoon's Conference USA title game is must-see TV as East Division champ Marshall hosts West winner Louisiana Tech. The Thundering Herd are 12.5-point favorites on  5Dimes NCAA football odds with a total of 68.5.

Major Bowl Dreams Disappear
Marshall (11-1, 7-1) had a shot at grabbing the one spot guaranteed to the highest-rated non-Power 5 Conference team in one of the elite bowl games this season as the Thundering Herd entered last week at No. 24 in the College Football Playoff rankings -- one spot behind Boise State of the Mountain West -- and as one of just two unbeatens left in the FBS.

However, as a 23.5-point favorite at sportsbooks against visiting Western Kentucky, Marshall was shocked 67-66 in overtime in one of the most entertaining games at any level this season. The 133 total points were a Conference USA record for a game -- third-most in any FBS game the past 10 years -- and the two offenses combined for an incredible 1,446 yards. Marshall was down 10 points with under six minutes remaining and rallied on a Justin Haig 17-yard field goal with 5:32 left and then a 5-yard TD pass from star quarterback Rakeem Cato to Eric Frohnapfel with 39 seconds remaining. The Herd took their first lead of the day with a 25-yard pass from Cato to Hyleck Foster in overtime. However, WKU tied it on its possession as Brandon Doughty hit Jared Dangerfield on a 25-yard score. The Hilltoppers surprisingly went for 2 and converted on a pass from Doughty to Willie McNeal.

The 15 combined touchdown passes from Doughty (eight) and Cato (seven) broke an FBS record for most in a game. Western Kentucky's Leon Allen (237) and Marshall's Steward Butler (233) became the second of opposing running backs in FBS history to each rush for over 230 yards in the same game. The last was in 1997. The 133 points were also the most in FBS history involving a ranked team, tying West Virginia's 70-63 win over Baylor in 2012. The total was set at 75.5 points for the game at sportsbooks and it went 'over' in the second quarter. Amazing!

Cato will go down as the best quarterback in Marshall history and this will be the senior's final home game. His 13,490 career yards have broken Chad Pennington's school record and are No. 8 in FBS history. Cato has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 44 consecutive games, an FBS record. The only QB in NCAA history with a longer streak is Mike Reilly (2005-08) of Division II Central Washington. He had 46 straight. Cato has 35 TD throws this year, his third straight with at least 35. No Marshall QB has done that.

Marshall ranks seventh nationally in rushing offense (288.5 yards per game), second in total offense (574.6 yards per game) and scoring (46.7 points per game). Running back Devon Johnson is sixth in the country with 1,602 yards and averages a gaudy 8.6 yards per carry. That's more yards per carry than Heisman candidate Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin. Defensively Marshall actually still ranks 22nd in points allowed per game against despite giving up those 66. The Herd had given up more than 24 just one other time, but they did play an incredibly easy schedule.

This is the second straight C-USA title game for Marshall. It lost 41-24 at Rice last season. Doc Holliday is the fourth coach in conference history to lead his team to back-to-back title games.

The Herd are 8-4 against the spread at sportsbooks this season and 7-5 'over/under.'

 

Bulldogs Can Score Too
Louisiana Tech (8-4, 7-1) actually outdid Marshall last week, scoring 76 points in a 45-point home rout of Rice to clinch the West Division. The Owls pulled to 28-24 early in the third quarter before the Bulldogs scored 41 unanswered points. Cody Sokol threw for 387 yards and four scores as Louisiana Tech had 677 yards of offense. Three Tech receivers had at least 114 yards: Paul Turner, Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson, and each had at least one TD. Running back Kenneth Dixon had three rushing touchdowns, giving him 56 total for his career. That's one shy of tying receiver Troy Edwards (1996-98) for the most in school history. Dixon's 23 total touchdowns this season rank fourth all-time in C-USA history.

Louisiana Tech also scored 20 points off Rice turnovers. Tech leads the nation with 150 points off turnovers, an average of 12.5 points per game.  It also leads the country in forcing 36 turnovers. Tech has now beaten three teams this season by at least 45 points. That hasn't happened at the school since 1910. The 76 points were not a school record for Louisiana Tech but the most by the school in a conference game and the second-most ever by a Conference USA team. Three times a school has scored 77.  This is just Tech's second year in C-USA. Not only has Louisiana Tech  not played Marshall this year, the programs have met just once: in 1942.

The Bulldogs are 9-3 against the college football odds spread this season and 8-3-1 'over/under.'

NCAAF Free Picks: Marshall -12.5 and 'over' 68.5 points at 5Dimes for your college football picks. As long as Marshall is focused and not deflated off missing a major bowl, this shouldn't be close. The Herd have covered 14 of their past 16 at home against teams with a winning road record. Louisiana Tech is 2-5 ATS in its past seven after a win of more than 20 points. The 'over' is 8-2 in Marshall's past 10 following an ATS loss. It is 5-2 in Tech's past seven on the road.

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