Marshall comes to Carter-Finley stadium Saturday for a 2pm kickoff, and they bring with them a 4-0 record which includes wins over East Carolina and Virginia Tech. They are a good group of five program that knocked off Notre Dame last year .
Offensively, they are averaging just shy of 30 points per game, and they are averaging 412 yards per game in total offense. Rasheen Ali , who has rushed for 475 yards in the first 4 games is their featured back and he is the running game for the most part, which will allow the Wolfpack defense to concentrate on stopping Ali. Cam Fancher (a lefty) is the Thundering Herd's quarterback, and he is averaging 222 yards a game through the air, and he is their second leading rusher. One thing that stands out to me is that they have only allowed 2 sacks, so they have been good in protection so far. I think that will change Saturday. They haven't seen a defense like NC State's thus far, and defensive coordinator Tony Gibson likes to be very aggressive with different looks and different blitz schemes , so we will see how Marshall handles the pressure.
Defensively, Marshall is giving up 336 yards per game, but only 143 through the air. That's an interesting number considering the Wolfpack's struggles throwing the football. They are giving up 193 yards rushing, so maybe we will see a better running attack from Michael Allen and company.
Special teams will be important in this game, and the Wolfpack special teams are elite. Marshall's kicking game has been somewhat of an adventure. They are 4-7 on field goals so far with the longest one from 42 yards. What could be big in this game is that Marshall's touchback percentage is only 43%. If Julian Gray can get opportunities to return the football, he can do a lot of damage as we have seen so far.
The keys to the game come down to this. The Wolfpack has to be able to run the football which will open up the passing game for M.J. Morris. He proved last year that he can throw the ball downfield. State also has to stop the run and avoid giving up chunk plays. The offense has to sustain drives and dominate time of possession. This is a very winnable game, but it's not going to be a cakewalk. NC State has a lot to prove, and I think M.J. Morris will make a significant difference at quarterback. Let's hope I'm right.