HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon likes to nickname Conference USA, where the Thundering Herd calls home, "Conference NBA" for its high scoring and quick offenses.
On Saturday, the Herd will go from "Conference NBA" to "Conference LBS," and from big point totals to big bodies.
Marshall visits Big Ten mainstay Purdue at 3:15 p.m., to be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. The Herd must contend with one of the beefiest opponents it will see this season, especially in the trenches, and hopes its overall team speed presents problems for the Boilermakers.
That's Rippon's hope, considering Purdue's starting offensive line averages 304.5 pounds per man - the second-heaviest offensive line Marshall (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) has faced behind West Virginia. Marshall's starting defensive line averages 262.5 pounds per man. That could present some issues for a defense allowing an average of 509 yards overall and 243.75 yards on the ground. And the Boilermakers (2-1) like to run, averaging 219 rushing yards per game.
And while Marshall's defense made the plays it absolutely had to - making a touchdown-saving tackle that allowed the Herd to force overtime and ultimately beat Rice - it struggled mightily.
The Herd allowed 647 yards - 301 on the ground and 346 through the air.
"Our defensive line is where we thought it would be and is continuing to play hard," Rippon said. "I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about us getting engulfed with that kind of team - big offensive line, zone team. If we can dent it a little bit, make the back change his path a little bit, that's where you chase them down and make the play."
Marshall's offense doesn't have it any easier. Purdue's defensive line is the biggest the Herd has faced all year at an average of nearly 297 pounds per man.
It's anchored by all-Big Ten pick Kawann Short, a 6-foot-3, 315-pounder considered one of the 2013 NFL Draft's top prospects. And while he weighs 315 pounds, Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg said he doesn't move like it.