2011 Record: (7-6, 5-3 in C-USA)
Head Coach: Doc Holliday (12-13 at Marshall, 9-7 in C-USA games)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl: beat FIU 20-10
Out of Conference: 9/1 at WVU, 9/8 vs Western Carolina, 9/15 vs Ohio, 9/29 at Purdue
Revenge: 10/6 vs Tulsa, 10/27 vs UCF, 11/17 vs Houston
Swing Games: 9/22 at Rice, 11/23 at East Carolina
Stat to Cheer: created 29 turnovers in 2011 (3rd in C-USA, 19th in Nation)
Stat to Fear: converted 36.08% of third downs in 2011 (11th in C-USA, 98th in Nation)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 5; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Devin Arrington (77 tackles, 2 INT), CB Monterius Lovett (53 tackles, 2 INT), DE Jeremiah Taylor (45 tackles, 3.5 tackles), DT Marques Aiken (39 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Rakeem Cato (15 TD, 11 INT), WR Aaron Dobson (49 rec, 12 TD), RB Tron Martinez (649 yds rush, 3 TD), RB Travon Van (551 yds rush, 3 TD)
Statistically, Marshall's offense wasn't one of the better ones in C-USA last year. In fact, the argument can be made that it was one of the worst. They were next to last in total yards, only scored 21.8 points per game, they averaged just 36% on third down conversions (11th in league) and only scored TDs on only 57% of their red zone trips. Despite those stats, Marshall did enough to win more than half of their games including a bowl game. Out of their seven wins, five of them were by one score or less and six out of the seven were by ten points or less. Marshall found a way to win the close ones in 2011.
In 2011, Marshall returns a lot of talent on the offensive side of the football. They return QB Rakeem Cato who was thrown into the fire as a freshman. Cato's splits tell you a lot about why Marshall won and lost some games. In wins he had 11 TDs and 5 INTs and completed 65.9% of his passes. In losses he completed on 52.2% of his passes and had a TD to INT ratio of 4 to 6. Cato will be a year more experienced this season and if the Thundering Herd want to equal or exceed their record from last year he will be a big key. Travon Van (a one-time Florida recruit) and Tron Martinez (649 yds rush) will both return and only one of the top 11 receivers was a senior last year so Cato has plenty of returning fire power at the skill positions. The OL isn't the most experienced group but I think we should see better results from the Marshall offense this season.
Last year Marshall allowed 28.6 points per game and they will be losing five of their top six tacklers, their two leading sackers (including Vinny Curry's 23 from the last two seasons) and their two leading interceptors. That's a lot of talent to lose. That being said, Marshall won't exactly be young on the defensive side of the football (they project to start eight upperclassmen) but they will have a lot of new starters and it will be interesting to see how they replace so much productivity.
Marshall finished with a winning record last year but due to the close games they won and some blowout losses (they lost five of their six games by more than ten points) they actually gave up 6.8 more points than they scored last year. With so much talent lost on defense it will be very surprising if Marshall can continue to win those close games this year. If they do it might be because of their offense and the young talent that is on that side of the football.
2012 Prediction: 5-7
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