Week 14 CUSA - Marshall-ECU, FAU-FIU

Posted Nov 27, 2013

Week 14 Fearless Prediction & Preview -Marshall at East Carolina, FAU at FIU

East Carolina (9-2) at Marshall (8-3) Nov. 29, 12:00, CBS Sports Network

Why You Should Give A Hoot: This was pegged as the game of the year in Conference USA before 2013 began. It's still living up to the hype.

It's East Carolina and Marshall for all the marbles in the East Division, with both knotted at 6-1 in league play. The winner plays for a crown and a Liberty Bowl berth, while the loser must await its postseason fate. The Pirates have been a juggernaut all season, including routs of the ACC's North Carolina and NC State to go along with their conference success. The Herd has picked up a head of steam with four wins in a row, each by double-digits over league also-rans. Both schools score a lot of points, sport underrated defenses and have nearly upended Virginia Tech along the way. Shane Carden vs. Rakeem Cato qualifies as one of the sneaky-good quarterback duels of Week 14.

Why East Carolina Might Win: The Pirates do a little bit of everything well, which why they've been so difficult to take down. Greenville is home to the league's second best offense and the second best defense, a collaborative effort that's improved as the season has unfolded. ECU thrives in so many different ways, from the passing of Shane Carden and the running of Vintavious Cooper to a defense yielding the ninth fewest yards per carry in the country. The Hokies aside, this is the best defense that Marshall has faced in 2013.

Why Marshall Might Win: Mirror image, no, but the Herd is awfully similar to the Pirates in terms of range and versatility. Marshall leads Conference USA in total offense, while ranking third in total D. The Herd is balanced with the ball and fast to it on defense. East Carolina will have to contend with Cato, who's thrown the same number of touchdown passes as Carden, 32, and a very deep stable of backs headed by Essray Taliaferro.

Who To Watch Out For: Both teams are capable of getting after the quarterback, and both have also shown some weaknesses in pass protection, which could mean a big day for the pass rushers. Pirate linebackers Derrell Johnson and Montese Overton and Herd lineman James Rouse are among the best in the league at generating backside pressure.

- East Carolina will need to be air-tight in the middle of the field, which is where Marshall WR Tommy Shuler and TE Gator Hoskins prefer to roam. Shuler and Hoskins have 21 touchdown passes between them.

- Carden to Justin Hardy has been prolific all season long, but Marshall presents a serious challenge to the ECU passing game. The Herd ranks second in the league and 15th in the country in pass efficiency defense, allowing just 12 touchdown passes.

What Will Happen: It isn't Ohio State-Michigan, but East Carolina-Marshall ought to be the most entertaining game of Friday. The two teams are evenly matched in so many ways. However, the Pirates are a little more consistent on offense, and Carden has already proven he can solve ACC defenses. He'll lead ECU to a win and an East Division title in a wild game that features a number of swings in momentum.

Prediction: East Carolina 37 … Marshall 33
Line: Marshall -3 o/u: 67.5
Must See Rating: (5 American Hustle – 1 The Sound of Music Live!) … 3
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Florida International (1-10) at Florida Atlantic (5-6) Nov. 29, 3:00, Fox Sports 1

Why You Should Give A Hoot: New conference, same old rivals. Florida International and Florida Atlantic have a growing dislike for one another, the seeds from which a budding rivalry has been born. For the Owls, more than bragging rights will be at stake on Friday afternoon. They're a win away from bowl eligibility, an improbable turnaround for a program that was 2-6 when Brian Wright replaced ousted head coach Carl Pelini on Oct. 30. The Panthers, on the other hand, never located any traction in Ron Turner's debut, dropping the last six games, all but one in blowouts.

Why Florida International Might Win: Not only is this a rivalry game, but while the Panthers will be loose, the Owls could be tight as they attempt to qualify for postseason consideration. Florida International has enough speed on defense to throw a monkey wrench into the offensive plans of one-dimensional Florida Atlantic. Up front, tackles Isame Faciane and Greg Hickman have been especially active for the Panther D.

Why Florida Atlantic Might Win: The Owls aren't just winning. They're gashing bad teams, and Florida International is a very bad team. Florida Atlantic has won its last three games by a combined score of 130-34, getting major contributions on both sides of the ball. The program leads the league in pass defense, led by ball-hawking CB D'Joun Smith, and the ground game has been trampling opponents in November.

Who To Watch Out For: QB Jaquez Johnson has really turned the corner for the Owls in the second half of the season. Not only is he the team's leading rusher, but he's also coming off his best game as a passer, completing 15-of-22 for 321 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

- If FIU has any chance of solving the FAU defense, it must have success on the ground. The Owls allow 4.7 yards per carry, which could provide hints of running room for backs Lamarq Caldwell and Silas Spearman.

What Will Happen: The intensity of a rivalry will not be enough for Florida International to be competitive in this one. Florida Atlantic is confident, a team on a mission now that the postseason is a possibility. The Owls will school the Panthers with their defense and their rushing attack, setting the stage for a possible bowl bid.

Prediction: Florida Atlantic 40 … Florida International 13
Line: Florida Atlantic -28.5 o/u: 44
Must See Rating: (5 American Hustle – 1 The Sound of Music Live!) … 1
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