Marshall and UAB have played some great games since the Thundering Herd joined Conference USA in 2005, but they have never met in the conference title game. That will change Friday when Marshall and UAB face off on CBS Sports Network with the league championship at stake. The Thundering Herd (7-1, 4-1 C-USA) are seeking redemption from a stunning 20-0 loss to Rice on Dec. 5 that ended their unbeaten season, while UAB (5-3, 3-1) is riding high off a win over that same Rice team last week. The victory clinched the Blazers' third straight C-USA West title and earned them a spot in this game.
These two teams met every season for 10 years until 2015. Marshall held an 8-2 record in those games, but six of them were decided by a touchdown or less, including a 23-18 Marshall win in 2014. That was the last time these teams met. Since then, the league has changed its structure and UAB didn't play football for two seasons. But one of these two teams has played in the league title game for three of the past six seasons. Now, they will finally meet each other and resume their series with a trophy on the line.
Event: Conference USA Championship Game
Date: Friday, Dec. 18 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Joan C. Edwards Stadium -- Huntington, West Virginia
TV: CBS Sports Network [Channel finder]
Live stream: CBSSports.com | Mobile: CBS Sports App
Marshall: The Thundering Herd enter the game with the top-ranked scoring defense in the country, as they have allowed just 11.4 points per game this season. Opponents are averaging just 253.9 yards per game against them. Their only slip-up came last time out in a shocking 20-0 loss to Rice that dropped Marshall from the ranks of the unbeaten after they were ranked No. 21 in the first two weeks of the College Football Playoff rankings. But that loss was not the responsibility of the defense, which gave up just 213 yards to the Owls. Rather, it was the fault of the offense as quarterback Grant Wells threw five interceptions. The redshirt freshman had been solid all season until that outing, which put a damper on an otherwise excellent year for a historically proud program.
UAB: The Blazers have played just one game since Oct. 31, but it was a big one for UAB, which clinched its spot in the conference title game and improved to 5-3 (3-1 C-USA) with a 21-16 win over Rice last week. It is the third straight C-USA West title for the Blazers, who have validated their administration's decision to revitalize the football program. There was no UAB football in 2015 and 2016 after the program was cut due to budgetary concerns. But after a public outcry and a lot of fundraising, the program came back for the 2017 season and has not stopped winning under coach Bill Clark. Two of the Blazers' three losses this season came against ranked nonconference foes (a 31-14 loss at Miami and a 24-20 loss to Louisiana). Their only league loss was a 37-34 double-overtime defeat on the road at Louisiana Tech.
Marshall vs. UAB prediction
Expect a low scoring game and some conservative offense. Both teams are defined by their defenses, and it's hard to imagine either team successfully airing it out and getting a huge lead. Muted play calling means this will likely be a one-possession game, and that makes the Blazers a good bet. Pick: UAB +5