For some teams, the season has already started. CUSA teams UCF and Rice got started last night, with UCF getting a resounding road win over Akron, and Rice losing at home to UCLA. Tomorrow, the rest of the conference gets set to start off their seasons.
Like baseball, for the next 24 hours, every team is even. Every fan of every team knows that their team is going to win every single game on their schedule. Today, I am going to give my predictions for the Marshall football season. My predictions are going to be based on what Marshall needs to do, in each game in order to go undefeated. Do not be surprised, when at the end of this article, my prediction is for the Herd to go 14 and 0 and make it to a BCS bowl, which one? Well, that will depend on whether or not two SEC games finish one and two in the polls, which could push the CUSA champion to the Fiesta or Orange Bowl.
So, with that being said, and with the end of this story already having been revealed, here is how we got there. Pretend this is "How I Met Your Mother," only on the football field.
September 1, 2012, at West Virginia:
Marshall comes into this game with a chip on its shoulder. It is the last game of an in state series which the larger school from the North believes that it got pushed into and never wanted. Marshall has lost the first 11 games in this series, with a handful being pre World War I. Marshall comes into this game deeper, and faster than it has been, maybe ever. West Virginia comes into the game off of a 70 point pasting of Clemson. However, leading up to that Clemson game, West Virginia beat the likes of Rutgers, USF, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati by a combined 17 points, they also had two losses in the last six games. So which team will show up. In order to win, Marshall needs to convert on third downs, and prevent West Virginia from converting. Simple as that, if Rakeem Cato can find receivers on third down, and move the football, Marshall has a chance to win. On defense, the new speed at the second level of the defense simply must contain Geno Smith on third down. If these things happen, and Marshall scores touchdowns instead of kicking field goals, then anything can happen. Time will tell. Marshall should be able to score early, and their newer, faster defense should be able to force a few turnovers.
I still cannot help but wonder just what team West Virginia is. There is no doubt they are good, but are they the 70 point team, or the team that lost at home to Louisville, giving up 38 points. Louisville was beaten by Marshall at Louisville with the Herd giving up only 10 points.
Marshall holds on to win 33 to 28. (1 – 0)
September 8, 2012, vs Western Carolina
Coming off the biggest win in school history, a win that will allow a fan base to have the upper hand for many years to come, the Herd comes back home to battle FBS Western Carolina. Marshall comes out strong, and finishes just as strong. This should be no contest as the Herd plays former quarterback Eddie Sullivan. Marshall breaks 50 points, and beats the Catamounts 52 to 3. (2 – 0)
September 15, 2012 vs Ohio
Marshall will not need any motivation after the thumping it took at the hands of the Bobcats last year on the road. With Ohio going for it late in the game on fourth down just adding to the fire, Marshall now has the Cats at home. Last season, as was the case in multiple games, Marshall did not have the speed at linebacker to contain the speed of Ohio quarterback, Tyler Tettleton. With Raheem Waiters and Devon Arrington at linebacker this season, that should change. Marshall must contain Tettleton, get off to an early lead, and prevent the big play, in order to move to 3 and 0 on the season. The Herd prevails, 31 to 13. (3 – 0)
September 22, 2012 at Rice.
Marshall has never won in the state of Texas, not at any level. Typically, the Herd has lost, but was more often than not, the underdog. Outside of the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl, and a 2006 loss at SMU, Marshall was expected to lose, and didn't disappoint the experts. The Rice game, quite simply, is a must win. Rice is not the team that beat Marshall a few seasons back on the road, but they are good. Rice hung with UCLA at home last night before falling big, late. Again, speed is the key. This year, for the first time since being in CUSA, Marshall has as much, or more, than its opponent. It is always tough playing an afternoon game, under the high sun, in front of only a few thousand people in a stadium that is actually big enough that it held multiple Super Bowls at one point. This game is important for three reasons. Those reasons being that it is a game Marshall should win, it is a road game in Texas, and it is the first CUSA game on the slate. Marshall will have played three games this time around against some quality talent. Last season it took a late game fumble caused by Vinny Curry in order for Marshall to win at home. That team was different, this team is more mature, and has leaders. This team is more explosive, and the skill position players are one year older. This team knows what it has to do, and this team fully buys into Doc Holliday.
In 2006, Marshall travelled to Texas, early in the season to play SMU. Marshall should have won, and was the better team, but it didn't win. After the game, Head Coach Mark Snyder lit into his team in the locker room. It was a turning point game, in that many of the players, at that time, finally woke up and realized what Snyder was wanting, and they finally bought into it. Former quarterback Jimmy Skinner once told me, "I bought into his system, and his style that day, but it was too late, we had given that SMU game away." This is a similar game, a game that Marshall needs to win in order to get one step closer to a bowl, and a CUSA title. This time around, the team is already bought into the coach. Marshall storms in a focused, confident football team, and wins the game by two touchdowns. Marshall 27, Rice 13. (4 – 0, 1 – 0 in CUSA)
With the Herd now through the first quarter of the season, they will have accomplished a lot. If they are able to do, what they need to do against West Virginia, the season will be special. Marshall's players know what they are playing for on September 1st. They know what a win would mean not just to them, and their staff, but to the fans that support them. Will the pressure be too much? Will Geno Smith show why he is a Heisman favorite? Can Marshall slow them down on 3rd down? Can Marshall get their athletes to the ground before they make big plays?
Sounds like a lot to ask of the second youngest team in the country heading into the season, in regards to the number of seniors (keep in mind this includes not one but two senior transfers for the Herd, without them they would be the youngest team,) but if they play to their potential, and catch a break, it is possible. These predictions are based solely on what will, or could happen, if Marshall does what they need to do in each game. If they follow the game plan to a "t," and if they hold onto the football and play error free.
Later on, I will break down the remainder of the season in two ways. I will do it in the same article, comparing side by side what the season would be if Marshall plays as they should, in comparison to an approach in regards to if they play how they have been playing in the first quarter of the season's slate.
Stay tuned to herdhaven.com tomorrow for game coverage.
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