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Conference USA Championship: Can Marshall Bounce Back?


Marshall had its thirteen-game home winning streak snapped last week against Western Kentucky in overtime, a loss that was devastating for the Thundering Herd as it ruined their perfect record and dashed any hope of playing in a major bowl game.  With its bubble burst on so many levels (first home loss in 14 games; first loss of 2014; major bowl aspirations gone), it’s hard to imagine a scenario under which Marshall shows up to play in the Conference USA Championship Game with any sort of motivation or focus.

Louisiana Tech is quietly outperforming the betting market by covering nine of its last twelve games, including posting an impressive 7-1 SU and 6-2 ATS record in conference play.  The Bulldogs are also a perfect 4-0 ATS as road underdogs this season, including two outright upsets over Louisiana-Lafayette and North Texas. Louisiana Tech possesses an explosive offense that is averaging 38.7 points per game on 415 total yards at 6.0 yards per play and 10.7 yards per point.

Those numbers improve dramatically in conference play wherein the Bulldogs are averaging 44.6 points per game on434 total yards at 6.1 yards per play and 9.7 yards per point.  Louisiana Tech’s offense also enters the title game in excellent form, averaging 47.7 points and 477 total yards at 6.6 yards per play and 10.0 yards per point over its last three games.  In fact, the Bulldogs scored 76 points against Rice last week in a dominating 76-31 win as seven-point favorites.

The Bulldogs’ attack will certainly be challenged by a very good Marshall defense that is 0.6 yards per play better than average (4.7 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.3 yards per play).  However, the Thundering Herds’ stop unit has been in decline over the last three weeks where they have yielded 33.0 points on421 total yards at 5.6 yards per play and 12.8 yards per point.  I project 31 points on 403 yards for Louisiana Tech in this game, which is good enough to cover the inflated point spread.

Marshall takes the field with an potent offense that is 1.7 yards per play better than average (7.9 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 6.2 yards per play), which is good enough to move the chains against a stout Louisiana Tech stop unit.  The Bulldogs are allowing 25.2 points per game on 350 total yards at 4.8 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.7 yards per play, thereby making Tech 0.9 yards per play better than average defensively.  I project 38 points and 467 total yards for Marshall in this game, which is not enough to cover the twelve-point spread.

From a technical standpoint, college football home favorites off an overtime loss are a money-burning 45-70 ATS , including 2-13 ATS if they allowed 32 or more points in the loss and are now facing a .600 or greater conference foe. Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz is 36-18-1 ATS as an underdog in his career, including 11-1 ATS when getting six or more points on the road.  With the Bulldogs standing at 6-1 ATS on the road this season, take the points and invest with confidence.