Now it’s time for our weekly look at a handful of games that are flying under the national radar. Of the four games listed below, two are MAC matchups that should have a big impact on who makes it to the conference championship game. The other two matchups are in-state rivalry games, each featuring a team on the cusp of the top 25. All four games warrant at least a glance at the ticker because you’ll see the majority of these teams in bowl games at the end of the season.
Western Michigan @ Temple
When Western Michigan’s offense takes the field against Temple’s defense it will be team strength versus team strength. Western quarterback Tim Hiller has above average skills in the passing game, but he has shown that he can be rattled. So that’s exactly what John Haley and the Temple defense will try to do. The Owls’ defense has been decent so far this season, giving up less than 200 passing yards per game. Hiller has been on top of his game lately though, and he’ll get the job done in a tougher than anticipated game in Philadelphia.
J.Pike’s Pick: Western Michigan 28, Temple 20
Marshall @ West Virginia
This in-state rivalry ended up as a blowout a year ago, but Marshall actually led 13-6 at halftime. Mark Snyder finally has the Marshall program back on track after three straight sub-.500 seasons. The Herd sits at 3-1 (the lone loss was a competitive game against #9 Wisconsin) thanks to the play of their experienced defense. Marshall is limiting opponents to 118 rushing yards per game so far. Offensively the passing game is clicking due to the play of wide receiver Darius Passmore (26 receptions for 473 yards, 4 tds). Passmore has given freshman Mark Cann a reliable, playmaking target, which is always nice for a young quarterback. West Virginia on the other hand is 1-2 and struggling with their offensive identity. It seemed like new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen wanted to make Pat White a pocket passer the first couple weeks, but got back to the running game against Colorado that won them 33 games in the past three seasons. The offense is still way to predictable, but there’s still enough speed between White and Noel Devine to score enough points to win this game.
J.Pike’s Pick: West Virginia 32, Marshall 27
Buffalo @ Central Michigan
It’s time. Turner Gill has slowly built this Buffalo program into one of the elite in the MAC. Central Michigan has been the measuring stick the last couple years thanks to quarterback Dan LeFevour’s Tebow-esque stats, but now is when Buffalo makes their move. Drew Willy has been playing lights out this year and he’ll guide the Bulls on another last minute touchdown drive to seal the biggest win in school history.
J.Pike’s Pick: Buffalo 28, Central Michigan 27
Nevada @ UNLV
UNLV’s upset of Arizona State two weeks ago is just one of the many examples of the quality and depth of the Mountain West conference this year. Led by sophomore quarterback Omar Conner, the Rebels are 3-1 and on the top 25 radar for the first time in a long time. I don’t know if Mike Sanford is chewing on any towels on the sidelines, but he should be. On the other sideline, Chris Ault leads Nevada with his innovative “Pistol” offense. The Pistol is now popping into playbooks at places like Florida and Ohio State, but Ault is the creator. Nevada has already played two top 15 teams this year, so don’t let their poor record fool you. The Wolfpack has beaten UNLV each of the last three years, but it looks like UNLV has finally turned the corner.
J.Pike’s Pick: UNLV 27, Nevada 24