(Chuck Cook USA Today Sports)

HUNTINGTON, WV – Marshall will host a new and improved Golden Eagles squad tonight at 7.

Coming into today’s game, both teams are 1-0 in Conference play. That only multiplies the significance of this game for both teams. Southern Miss is 3-2 on the season, with losses to Nebraska (by 8) and Mississippi State (18), which is much improved from finishing 0-12 three years ago. Marshall is 4-1 on the season with their only loss coming to Ohio by 11, a game that no Marshall fan really wants to talk about at this point.

How does that play into today’s game?

Well, both teams have some things that they have to prove. For Marshall, their 19th ranked defense has to prove that they can face the 14th ranked passing offense in the country without having a meltdown. Quarterback Chase Litton also has more areas to prove that he is worthy of being the Herd QB of the future. And when was the last time the high-powered Marshall offense was outside of the top 50? Fans and coaches will be expecting the offense to pick up this weekend, especially with the hopeful return of Devon Johnson at running back.

As for Southern Miss, they’ve been off to a great start this season, and they definitely want that to continue. The Golden Eagles nearly knocked off Big Ten opponent Nebraska, losing only 36-28. They absolutely crushed North Texas, their first C-USA opponent, 49-14. One more point in that game would have put them above 50 for the third time in five games this year. It’s time for Southern Miss to prove that they can hang with the defending champions of the conference. Marshall has outscored the Golden Eagles 124-30 in the past two seasons, so a close game at all will prove well that Southern Miss is finally turning their program around again.

Why Marshall will win

Their passing defense, the likely return of Devon Johnson, and lets face it, the Herd knows how to win big and emotional games. For starters, the passing defense has a huge task on its hands, but they have the speed to contain just as well as Miss State and Nebraska. D.J. Hunter, Evan McKelvey, Taj Letman, Tiquan Lang, the list could probably go on and on. The talent of the Herd secondary is unreal, accounting for an interception in every game this season except for when facing Kent State, who went 13-34 passing (not exactly the best day through the air). Next brings us to the much-anticipated return of Devon Johnson. His numbers haven’t been off the charts this year, as expected, but he has a huge impact on this team just by being on the field. Johnson’s ability to block and wear down a defense has a great effect as the game ages. Last but certainly not least, Marshall wins this game because they know how to win meaningful games. Both teams are 1-0 in the conference, and both teams will carry the emotions of having something to prove.

Why Southern Miss will win

Their passing attack, momentum, and a little bit of revenge. Quarterback Nick Mullen has thrown for 1691 yards on 124 passes this season. He had 311 yards against Mississippi State and 447 yards against Nebraska. Those numbers are a part of a Southern Miss offense that is averaging over 500 yards per game. As far as revenge goes, I told you before how much of a bloodbath this series has been in the recent years. The Herd has put up over 60 points both times, including a 63-17 victory last year where the Golden Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. You can best believe that won’t be happening in Huntington this time around.

Impact Players – Marshall

RB Tony Pittman – Pittman has been carrying the rushing load in the absence of Rockhead. His quickness has slowly made defenses tired throughout the past couple of games. Although he may be the backup this week, his quickness will be amplified on a worn down Golden Eagle defense by the time the fourth quarter comes around. Look for Pittman to hit some gaps and make a few big plays in this match-up.

LB Evan McKelvey – Coming into tonight’s game, McKelvey is ranked second in the nation in tackles with 60 in five games. If there is one person who I think will have the biggest impact tomorrow, it’s him. Even if he doesn’t get double-digit tackles, an interception, or a sack tonight, his voice will make the rest of the Herd defense do that. He is a big leader on that side of the ball, and his leadership will need to show big-time in this one.

(AP Photo)

Impact Players – Southern Miss

QB Nick Mullen – Sitting at 5th in the country, Mullen will look to continue having the same success he’s had against big defenses this year. Expect at least 300 yards through the air from the Golden Eagles.

WR Casey Martin – Martin has 29 catches for 339 yards and 5 TD’s on the season. He’s been the most targeted receiver of Mullen’s this season, and will most likely have many balls come his way as they face the Herd and their strong secondary.

Prediction: Marshall 38, Southern Miss 28

Rain is going to play a role in Marshall’s game for the second week in a row. Last week, the Herd won 27-7 in the steady rain against ODU. This week won’t be nearly as comfortable of a lead for the Herd, but I do see them coming out with the victory. In fact, the only reason I have Marshall winning by double digits is because they will score late to put the game away. Southern Miss is going to keep the game close the entire way, or at least until the half. They will most likely be stalled late in the 4th and have to go for it, failing and giving the ball to the Herd with great scoring position. Very specific, I know, but hey you gotta throw some type of guesses out there right? The Marshall ground game will put a lot of pressure on the Southern Miss by the end of the game. An already weak defense will be weaker and unable to stop the speed of the attack. In the end I think Marshall is too much for the Golden Eagles. Marshall walks out 5-1, while USM falls to 3-3 and takes their first loss in Conference USA play.

Casey covers Marshall Thundering Herd sports for MFST. Follow him on twitter @wxmozz for updates on the Herd.

https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/a15.jpg?fit=680%2C510&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/a15.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1Casey MosrieAnalysisConference USAFootballNCAAFNews and UpdatesRecent Postscfb,College Football,conference usa,Marshall,Marshall football,NCAA Football,southern miss,southern miss footballHUNTINGTON, WV - Marshall will host a new and improved Golden Eagles squad tonight at 7. Coming into today's game, both teams are 1-0 in Conference play. That only multiplies the significance of this game for both teams. Southern Miss is 3-2 on the season, with losses to Nebraska (by...