by: Knox Bardeen
The Marshall Thundering Herd (4-5, 3-2 Conference USA) travel to Birmingham, Ala. Saturday to play the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers (2-7, 1-4 Conference USA) at Legion Field. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on CSS with Matt Stewart handling the play-by-play and Chuck Oliver providing commentary.
Marshall is coming off of a 10-point win last week over Memphis where the Thundering Herd gained 433 yards of total offense. The onslaught was led by quarterback Rakeem Cato who threw for 341 yards on 34 of 44 passing.
UAB also won last week, earning its second win of the season, a 27-19 win over Southern Miss. After spotting Southern Miss a 16-point halftime lead, the Blazers outscored the Golden Eagles 27-3 in the second half including 20 unanswered points to finish the game.
The last time these two met was Oct. 29 of last year. Marshall pasted 38 points on UAB in the first half and coasted to a 59-14 win. Saturday will make the eighth time these two face off with the Thundering Herd holding a decided 6-1 advantage. The only UAB win came in 2008.
Let's take a look at what you need to watch for when these two teams face off.
1) Marshall's offense ranks first in Conference USA in total offense, scoring and passing yards. Quarterback Rakeem Cato not only leads Conference USA, but is ranked No. 2 in the country, averaging 365 passing yards per game.
2) The Thundering Herd isn't just a passing team. Marshall averages 156.3 yards rushing and has scored 18 touchdowns on the ground through nine games this year. In 2011, Marshall only scored 11 rushing touchdowns.
3) Marshall excels on third down, converting 54.9 percent of its opportunities. One of the reasons why the Thundering Herd does so well on offense is because they are able to sustain drives by converting on third down.
4) Wide receivers Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson can both climb in the ranks of Marshall's record book Saturday, both need seven catches. With Wilson's seven, he'll move into seventh place alone in career receptions with 177. With Dobson's seven. he'll climb into the top 10 with 168.
5) UAB is in good shape to match Marshall's strength of moving the ball through the air. The Blazers rank 18th in the country by throwing foe 312.4 yards per game. Expect to see lots of passing Saturday.
6) Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Brown has completed a pass of 40 yards or more in each of his six starts this season. UAB is going to throw the ball a lot Saturday and watch for Brown to look downfield a bunch.
7) Junior wide receiver Jackie Williams leads the Blazers in receiving yards with 674, but isn't a prime target in the end zone. Williams caught a touchdown pass two weeks ago versus Tulane, but that was his first one since Nov. 27, 2010.
8) Never count UAB out in a game. The Blazers have scored 91 points in the fourth quarter this season, far and away their best quarter for scoring.