Marshall and Navy are both itching to put 2020 disappointment behind them when they kick off the 2021 season against one another at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, CBSSN).
The total opened at 44.5, but money on the OVER has pushed that number as high as 47.5, a figure that can be found on FanDuel and DraftKings. As of Friday, there are 47s available around the market for bettors still interested in the OVER.
Marshall Thundering Herd Overview
Marshall jumped out to a 7-0 record last season before collapsing down the stretch and dropping its final three, including a loss to Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl. The Thundering Herd finished 5-5 against the spread.
Offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey returns to his post, but he’ll answer to new head coach Charles Huff, who spent the last two seasons coaching Alabama running backs. Over his two-year stint in Tuscaloosa, Huff coached eventual first-round pick Najee Harris, who combined for 3,419 total yards and 50 touchdowns over that stretch.
The quarterback position appears settled, as Grant Wells made a positive first impression as a redshirt freshman. The expectations are elevated heading into his second season as the starter. Technically, he’ll be a third-year freshman thanks to the NCAA granting an extra season of eligibility.
“You can tell that Grant’s grown up a lot,” Marshall receiver Talik Keaton said. “Last year he was a redshirt freshman and he had the jitters and stuff, but now he goes about the day like he’s been doing it — not a big-head type of way, but he’s just more confident.”
Offensive lineman Alex Mollette summed it up more succinctly, “He’s not a freshman anymore.”
When Wells drops back, he’ll have a pair of dangerous pass-catching weapons to lean on. Sophomore wide receiver Corey Gammage, a rangy target at 6-foot-4, led the team with 35 receptions in 2020. Senior tight end Xavier Gaines earned 14.4 yards per catch on 28 receptions, and at 6-foot-3, he provides another big target.
If the defense can enjoy a similar degree of success in 2021 — it finished 2020 as the nation’s No. 1 scoring unit (13 PPG) and No. 2 total defense (279.4 YPG) — it will put them on the path to success, both on Saturday and throughout the season.
Navy Midshipmen Overview
Navy’s 3-7 record (4-6 ATS) last season marked only its third losing tally of the decade.
The Midshipmen were uncharacteristically poor at their bread and butter — running the football. They averaged 177.6 rushing yards per game, the first time they averaged fewer than 200 yards on the ground since 2001.
The head of the snake in coach Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option attack is the quarterback. They may not have another Keenan Reynolds pulling the strings, but in sophomores Xavier Arline and Tai Lavatai, the program believes it has a pair of quality options to run the show.
Aware of the demands on the quarterback position, Niumatalolo isn’t concerned with naming one as the starter. “With what we do on offense, you need more than one quarterback,” the coach said.
Success in this department also hinges significantly on the quality of the offensive line, and there is hope — perhaps even optimism — the unit can take a step forward in 2021.
Defensively, Navy repaired some leaks as the season wore on, and they finished strong, allowing only 44 points over their final three contests. Nine starters return on this side of the ball, offering a high degree of continuity.
The spread has remained off of the key number of 3 since opening at 3.5 and subsequently landing at 2.5. If you want to bet on Marshall, it may serve you best to wait. The market-making Circa Sports in Las Vegas lists the Thundering Herd as 2-point favorites and -130 on the moneyline, and other books could follow that lead.
For backers of Navy this week, the value being has been sucked out of the opening spread. The most attractive route may be placing a bet on their moneyline odds, which can be found at +120 at PointsBet.