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Marshall vs. Eastern Kentucky Betting Picks and Predictions

05 September 2020

NCAAF Picks Austyn Varney

Date: Saturday, September 5th
Time: 1:00 PM ET
Venue: Joan C. Edwards Stadium
Network: ESPN
Spread: Marshall -24
O/U: 52.5

Eastern Kentucky Colonels Preview

The Colonels needed a change at head coach and replaced Mark Elder with Walt Wells in the offseason. Wells is a long-time FBS assistant and most recently coached Tennessee and Kentucky. The EKU Colonels have been known as a run-first team for years now and it’ll be interesting to see if anything changes with a new coach at the wheel. I highly doubt it as Wells is a former OL coach and both UK and Tennessee have been great running teams in the last few seasons. When I say this team likes to run the ball, they really like to run the ball. If they want to have any chance at winning this game as a huge underdog, though, they’ll need to have some success through the air. 

In 2019, the offense was led by the halfback duo of Daryl McCleskey (1,238 yds, 8 TD) and Alonzo Booth (673 yds, 14 TD). They combined for over 350 carries on the year and QB Parker McKinney added another 75 and 280 yards as a cherry on top. They didn’t pass the ball much, and rightfully so. McKinney ended the season with just over 1,300 yards, seven touchdowns, and nine interceptions. He was a freshman, however, and he’ll look to make a big leap at QB in his sophomore season. The biggest concern for this team is the departure of three-year starter Daryl McCleskey. They’ll turn to TD-machine Alonzo Booth and speedster Quentin Pringle and you can expect both to play a huge role in tonight’s game.  

Marshall Thundering Herd Preview

This Marshall Thundering Herd is not the type of team that gets upset by an FCS opponent. They’re returning all five starting O-lineman and have the sixth-leading NCAA rusher in their backfield in RB Branden Knox. Sheldon Evans is one of the best backups in the conference and HC Doc Holiday can’t stop praising him. At QB, Isaiah Green will be replaced by redshirt freshman Grant Wells. Wells won’t run the ball as effectively as Green did, but he’s a better pure passer and these WR’s are going to surprise folks. Willie Johnson and Xavier Gaines are the trusted upperclassmen that Wells will rely on in third downs. Broc Thompson and Talik Keaton impressed as freshmen and wll step into starting roles in 2020. Look for both to make a big impact this season.

If Marshall wants to cover this huge spread, they’re going to need the defense to step up in a big way. They were decent in 2019 with just 26 points per game allowed. They lose eight starters and three of their top five tackle producers. Three of the four starting defensive linemen are gone and it’ll be up to Darius Hodge to lead the new-look DL. Hodge led the team with seven sacks in ’19. Tavante Beckett is the only returning starter at linebacker and led the team in tackles in 2019. With two leaders sticking around, it’ll be up to the role players to make it happen. This is a superb-coached team and I expect them to come out like a well-oiled machine on both sides. 

Spread Prediction

This is a big number for two teams that like to run the ball and eat clock. However, I expect Marshall to dominate early and often and for QB Grant Wells flowing a bit with his receivers. They face an extremely tough Appalachian State team in two weeks and I expect Doc Holiday to let his redshirt freshman QB have some success here before easing up late in the game. Even when they do eventually ease up, the combo of Knox and Evans will be tough to stop. EKU will struggle to keep up as they rely on running the ball and will ultimately fall behind. Give me the Marshall Thundering Herd all day and I’d be comfortable going up a couple of points. 

The Pick: Marshall -24

Best Sportsbooks For This Pick

New JerseyWilliam Hill square logoBet@William Hill
PennsylvaniaSugarHouse online casino square logoBet@SugarHouse
IndianaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
West VirginiaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
ColoradoBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
IllinoisBetRivers square logoBet@BetRivers

Total Prediction

Marshall Head coach Doc Holiday seems genuinely excited about how good his offense is looking. I expect them to come out firing against this Eastern Kentucky team that’s going through a ton of transition. I’d be shocked to see the Thundering Herd put up less than 35 points in this matchup. The Marshall defense has always been a bit shaky. I expect EKU to run into a couple of touchdowns late in the game as they explore their passing attack. While returning some stars, this Marshall defense will still be learning to play together after losing the majority of their starters and a few blown coverages wouldn’t be shocking. Give me the over here, though I’m not as confident in the pick as I am the spread.

The Pick: Over 52.5

Best Sportsbooks For This Pick

New JerseyWilliam Hill square logoBet@William Hill
PennsylvaniaSugarHouse online casino square logoBet@SugarHouse
IndianaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
West VirginiaBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
ColoradoBetMGM white and gold logo on black backgroundBet@BetMGM
IllinoisBetRivers square logoBet@BetRivers

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