Louisiana Tech is enjoying a sensational season – but a big test became massive as the Bulldogs visit the Marshall Thundering Herd in a battle of Conference USA elite on Friday night.
Senior starting quarterback J'mar Smith, junior wide receiver Adrian Hardy and senior outside linebacker James Jackson have been suspended due to an athletic department policy violation, according to a statement the school released Thursday night and will miss the game against Marshall.
Redshirt freshman Aaron Allen will get the start at quarterback for Louisiana Tech. Allen has thrown just nine passes this season, but has completed eight of them for 114 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
TRAMPLED BY THE HERD?
Marshall boasts one of the most imposing defensive units in the country, coming into Week 12 ranked sixth in the nation in sacks per game (3.56). But while the Bulldogs have faced lesser opposition en route to an 8-1 SU mark, their offensive line has fared well, allowing just 18 sacks through their first nine games while limiting opponents to just 4.56 tackles for loss per game – the 18th-best rate in the country.
That unit will have to be at the top of their game if they want to make life easy for their redshirt freshman quarterback in this one.
Louisiana Tech was rolling, having won eight straight games while covering the previous four and averaging better than 38 points per game on the season. But it's hard to see them getting to their team total of 24.5 while missing those key pieces on offense.
The total for Friday's Mountain West encounter between Fresno State and host San Diego State looks awfully low – and that might mean profit potential for Over bettors. The Bulldogs head to SDCCU Stadium riding a five-game Over stretch during which they've seen an average of 74.6 points scored, and should make things difficult on an Aztecs defense ranked in the top-10 in total defense (277.2 yards allowed per game), run defense (65.4) and scoring defense (14.4 points per game against). Fresno State has also struggled to get to the quarterback (12 sacks in nine games), which should bolster SDSU's scoring chances.
San Diego State might be one of the top Under options in the country (1-8 O/U), but Fresno State is talented enough on offense and mediocre enough on defense to lead this one past the number.
"WAIT AND SEE" ON WAN'DALE
The Nebraska Cornhuskers might have to go into Saturday's daunting home encounter with Wisconsin without one of their top offensive options. Running back Wan'Dale Robinson suffered an undisclosed injury in the Huskers' Nov. 2 loss to Purdue, and he remains in doubt even with Nebraska coming off a bye week. Huskers offensive coordinator Troy Walters says the team is in "wait and see mode" on Robinson, and the freshman might ultimately be a game-time decision. Robinson ranks third on the team in rushing yards (326) and second in receiving yards (453) while racking up five touchdowns.
Nebraska is already in tough against one of the stoutest defenses in the nation – and with Robinson's status unclear, we're leaning even more heavily toward the Under on the Cornhuskers' team total.
TROJANS ON THE MEND
A pair of USC running backs are nearing a return to action. Both Vavae Malepeai and Stephen Carr returned to practice this week; Malepeai hasn't played since mid-October after undergoing knee surgery, while Carr has missed the previous three games while dealing with a hamstring injury. While their return to practice is a positive step, it's unclear whether either player will be in uniform for the Trojans' Saturday tilt with the host Cal Golden Bears. The Trojans have gone 2-1 SU in their past three games despite the absences of Malepeai and Carr, but are averaging just 3.46 yards per carry in that span.
The return of either Malepeai or Carr (or both) will assuredly bolster USC's sagging run game, which would coincide nicely with the Golden Bears' defense struggling to contain opposing offenses. We favor the Trojans to cover in this one.