Posted by Adam Jacobi
Key matchup: Kedrick Rhodes, RB, FIU vs. Omar Brown, FS, Marshall
Ordinarily, having a free safety lead a team in tackles by a substantial margin is usually a portender of doom: if ball-carriers are getting to the second level with such regularity that the defense's centerfielder is being required to make a plurality of the tackles, after all, that normally means that the linebackers are having such a rough go of it that forcing third and fourth downs is basically out of the question. And yet, there's Marshall FS Omar Brown, leading the Thundering Herd by a 16-tackle margin over the next leading tackler (LB George Carpenter), and Marshall's defense is still... well, it's not good, but it's okay!
Brown's going to have to spend plenty of time in run support on Tuesday, because FIU's probably going to give the ball to sophomore tailback Kedrick Rhodes at least 20 times -- and perhaps closer to 30 -- in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl. Rhodes broke the FIU record for most rushing yards in a year with 1164 yards this season, topping the mark of 1133 set by Rashod Smith in 2004, and Rhodes was named a 2nd team All-Sun Belt RB as a result. Rhodes isn't exactly a bruiser, but he's hardly a wisp either at 5'11", 190.
It's going to be easier for FIU to open up the game and create space for T.Y. Hilton to work his magic if the Marshall defense is preoccupied with stopping the run, and that's only going to happen if FIU can gain significant yardage on the ground to force 2nd and short or 3rd and short. And the extent to which Marshall utilizes Brown -- again, a defensive back, although one who's a tackle machine -- to do so should be a fascinating chess match to watch during the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.
Check out all the latest updates on FIU and Marshall right up until kickoff at the Beef O'Brady's Bowl Pregame.
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