The Marshall Thundering Herd closes out the non-conference portion of its schedule Saturday night on the road at the Cincinnati Bearcats of the AAC. The Herd will be eyeing its first road win since October 31, 2015, and first win over the Bearcats in 17 years.
Marshall comes in at 2-1 overall following a 21-0 shutout win over Kent State on Sept. 16 in a game where the Herd’s offense struggled throughout much of the game, but the defense picked up the slack and shut down the Golden Flashes.
Cincinnati comes into this game at 2-2 overall following a 42-32 road loss at Navy on Sept. 23 after a narrow road win at Miami (OH) on Sept. 16.
The Bearcats lead the all-time series with the Herd 8-3-1 and have won three straight dating back to the 2004 season. This will be the first meeting between the two since 2008 and is the first game of a home-and-home series that concludes in 2019 in Huntington.
Marshall and Cincinnati have met two times in bowl games in the past with the Herd defeating the Bearcats in the 2000 Motor City Bowl and Cincinnati returning the favor in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl.
Both teams come into this game with similar results up to this point. The common opponent factor both teams have could be an indicator of how this game will go. Marshall defeated Miami (OH) 31-26 in Week 1 while Cincinnati defeated the RedHawks 21-17 in Week 3.
The current spread sees the Bearcats as 5-point favorites and ESPN’s Football Power Index currently gives Cincinnati a 54.0 percent chance of getting a win over Marshall.
A key matchup to look for in this game will be how well the Herd’s rushing attack produces against the Bearcats’ subpar rush defense. Marshall has been hit or miss on the ground so far this season, but with the addition of Tyler King in the second half against Kent State, the Herd’s rushing attack picked up and King finished with a 100-yard rushing day.
Cincinnati is giving up an average of 264 rushing yards-per-game this season including allowing 579 rushing yards against run-heavy Navy. While most teams will give up a lot of rushing yards to Navy, the Bearcats have definitely struggled to stop the run this year and the Herd could take advantage of that behind the running of King and company.
This is shaping up to be a great game between two relatively evenly-matched teams with a lot to play for. The Bearcats are looking to rebound at home and creep over .500 while Marshall is looking for a 3-1 start for the first time since 2015.
The Herd has only defeated Cincinnati on the road one time in the teams’ history together and to knock off the Bearcats in this game, it will have to play a complete game much better than it did against Kent State two weeks ago where the offense struggled.
Marshall did have the advantage of a bye week to prepare for Cincinnati and will be the fresher team, but it will take much more than freshness to get this win. And the Bearcats certainly won’t do the Herd any favors and will be out to avenge a Week 4 loss that opened AAC play.
Marshall and Cincinnati kickoff at 7 p.m. Saturday night from Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio and the game will be aired on ESPN3.