Marshall (2-4, 1-1) at Southern Mississippi (0-6, 0-2)
7 p.m. EDT today, M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000, FieldTurf), Hattiesburg, Miss.TV: CBS Sports NetworkCrew: Dave Ryan play-by-play, Steve Buerlein analyst, Evan Washburn sidelinesLine: Southern Miss by 31/2Series: Southern Miss leads 5-2Last meeting: Marshall 26, Southern Miss 20, Sept. 10, 2011 at HuntingtonTickets: Several thousand available, $20-35Weather: Just plain perfect - clear, 69 degrees at kickoff
On the spotAnthony Alford, Southern Miss quarterback: The Eagles' highest pass efficiency rating of the season came against Western Kentucky, when Alford, Chris Campbell and Ricky Lloyd combined to go 8 of 17 for 101 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Should Alford go the distance as he did last weekend at Central Florida, his best bet to beat the Herd is on the ground - remember Rice's Taylor McHargue rambling for 153 yards a month ago?Marshall defense: One thing for this unit to hang its hat on: It held Tulsa to five third-down conversions in 14 attempts two weeks ago. (Then again, Tulsa converted all three tries on fourth.) It's ridiculous to think the Herd won't give up 400-plus total yards, but the challenge is to get off the field every so often. It also wouldn't hurt to force a turnover or two, especially against a freshman QB.
Stats 'n' suchMarshall's Tommy Shuler has caught 58 passes, just nine fewer than Southern Miss has completed as a team. ... Southern Miss is 17-12 immediately after a league loss since 1996.In the stat rankings: Marshall's Rakeem Cato leads Conference USA and is third nationally in total offense (391.83 yards per game), and Shuler leads the league and is second nationally in receptions (9.67 per game), and he also leads C-USA in receiving yards per game (93.67). Dominick LeGrande is seventh in the NCAA in tackles (11.5 per game). ... Team-wise, the Herd is second nationally in passing offense (396.0) and third-down conversion rate (56.6 percent), third in total offense (558.33) and fifth in net punting (42.55), but is dead last in America in scoring defense (44.5). MU is also last in C-USA in sacks (four), 11th in total defense (469.83) and turnover margin (minus-7).
Southern Miss is 119th nationally in pass efficiency rating (96.29), but still 11th in the league (congratulations, SMU). The Eagles are last in C-USA in passing yardage (140.33), pass efficiency defense (151.16) and turnover margin (minus-9). Conversely, they lead in pass yardage allowed (212.33) and are second in kickoff returns (24.44).
1 Combined turnovers forced by either team. Don't laugh - Marshall has forced five turnovers in six games, while Southern Miss has just four takeaways. Will the first team to force a turnover win?
41/2 Cato's touchdown passes. UCF was the first team to not throw a TD vs. the Eagles, and that seemed to be luck of the draw. USM has given up 13.
94 Marshall scrimmage plays. Southern Mississippi's defense faced a season-high 82 last week at UCF, but there were two overtimes. The Eagles have tried to prepare for this, no doubt, but count on a culture shock.
Completely useless trivia
Brett Favre, a Southern Miss grad you might know, completed 613 of 1,169 for 7,695 yards with 52 touchdowns in 44 games (bowl games not included). To show the contrast in eras and offenses, MU's Cato has played just 19 games but has 400 completions in 616 attempts for 4,370 yards and 33 TDs. Favre averaged 26.6 attempts per game; Cato has exceeded that in either half of five games this season. . . . Wouldn't it be cool if Jimmy Buffet, Southern Miss Class of 1969, sang the national anthem tonight at "The Rock"? (He has done it at Cubs and Saints games.) Well, forget about it - he's performing tonight at the MGM Arena in Las Vegas.
Marshall goes home for the next two games, beginning with the last bout with nemesis Central Florida. That is an 8 p.m. start next Saturday, at the behest of CBS Sports Network. Southern Miss travels to Rice at 1 p.m. Saturday.