James Madison vs. Marshall Week 8 college football prediction and preview

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Week 8 Thursday games feature James Madison vs. Marshall and Rice vs. Tulsa

We’ve got two games of Thursday Night Football on the collegiate side for Week 8, including the No. 26 team in the nation per the pollsters. James Madison is on the road and favored against Marshall in hopes of keeping up a perfect record. We also have our first AAC matchup of the week, as Tulsa hosts Rice as a short favorite.

 

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Odds as of 10/17, 3 p.m. PT

James Madison Dukes (-3.5, 50) at Marshall Thundering Herd

When the Dukes were ranked in the Top 25 last season, they immediately lost to Georgia Southern. In a huge revenge spot last week, they beat the Eagles into submission in a 41-13 win. They are now one spot away from the Top 25 for their first road game since September 23 when they head to Huntington, West Virginia to face a Marshall team that was on the receiving end of a beatdown at the hands of Georgia State last week.

So, we’ve got two teams in very different spots here. That is doubly true when you consider that Marshall has allowed 124 points over the last three games and James Madison has allowed 126 points over six games this season. To their credit, the Herd have scored 106 in some strong offensive efforts to keep pace, but they really have to find ways to get some more stops on defense.

That may be easier said than done against the Dukes, who are getting excellent play from Jordan McCloud, who comes in with a 14/3 TD/INT ratio and just nine sacks. On the whole, the Dukes have a solid ground game, especially with feature back Kaelon Black with 4.9 yards per carry and change-of-pace back Ty Son Lawton with 5.0 yards per pop. The Dukes are averaging .44 more yards per play than the Herd.

Marshall has allowed over seven yards per play in two conference games and gave up over six yards per play to NC State. That puts a lot of pressure on the offense, where QB Cam Fancher has a 7/5 TD/INT ratio with a completion percentage near 69% with a lot of quick throws. Rasheen Ali is the star of the offense with 5.2 yards per carry, but he has 124 carries and Fancher is second with 73 attempts, so the Herd are very depth-shy at running back.

James Madison has actually played a tougher strength of schedule this season than Marshall and still has the better statistical profile by a good margin. They’re also the better-coached team. My line is higher than this and I’ll keep riding the Dukes. The spot is the lone hesitation, but every game is a bowl game for them since their fate lies in whether or not there are enough six-win teams to fill out the bowl schedule, so it’s all about a perfect record for them.

Pick: James Madison -3.5

Other Thursday Game

Rice Owls at Tulsa Golden Hurricane (-3, 57.5): This is a battle of 3-3 teams, as Rice and Tulsa meet. Two of Tulsa’s losses have been Washington and Oklahoma. Rice lost to Texas to open the season. But, they’ve also lost to South Florida and UConn. Tulsa doesn’t have a bad loss on the season for first-year head coach Kevin Wilson and played a very even box score against Florida Atlantic a couple weeks ago.

Some extra recovery time had to be good for banged-up QB JT Daniels, as the Owls signal caller has a 15/5 TD/INT ratio on the season. He was first injured in the loss against South Florida, but still threw for 362 yards against UConn in the 38-31 loss.

Tulsa QBs have combined to throw 12 interceptions this season, as freshman QB Cardell Williams has gotten the bulk of the work in place of injured incumbent Braylon Braxton. At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Braxton will just redshirt and maintain a year of eligibility. Wilson did get Braxton to stay out of the transfer portal, where he would have garnered interest, but things might have changed.

My line here is Rice +0.5, so if this gets to 3.5, I’d be interested in playing them.

Play Rice at +3.5 or better