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Top 25 college football team preview: No. 25 Marshall Thundering Herd

Top 25 college football team preview: No. 25 Marshall Thundering Herd Photo: Leslie Plaza Johnson/Icon SMI

For Marshall to have a chance at making the College Football Playoff, the Thundering Herd must go undefeated. That would require a Heisman-caliber season out of quarterback Rakeem Cato, who enters this fall with 10,176 career passing yards. Last year Marshall won double-digit games for the first time since 2002, and with 15 returning starters the potential for a special season is there.

The Herd averaged more than 42 points a game in 2013, constantly putting pressure on foes to match the Herd strike for strike. Fifth-year coach Doc Holliday’s recruiting roots in Florida have built a consistent pipeline of skill players who find their way to Huntington, W.Va.

Senior wide receiver Tommy Shuler has recorded 216 catches over the past two seasons, but Marshall's ground game took a hit with the dismissal of junior Kevin Grooms (503 yards, six touchdowns in 2013) following his third arrest in two years. Junior Steward Butler (765 yards, eight touchdowns) and a stable of young runners will look to keep the Herd rolling.

Opposing coach's take

They crank out plays. You’d better have your guys ready, and as a defensive coordinator you certainly can’t debate what you’re going to call. You need to have a plan, get the call in to your players and have them ready to line up. It’s easier said than done.

We watch a lot of film of a lot of different teams, especially in the offseason, and some of them are bigger-name programs than Marshall. But shoot, I’d put Marshall up against most any team as far as their offensive production, their skill people and certainly their quarterback. You probably can’t come up with many guys in the country that you’d trade [Rakeem] Cato for, and I’m sure [coach] Doc [Holliday] wouldn’t trade him for anybody. Steward Butler can run it, too. They definitely should be up there with the elite offenses in the country.

X-factor

Redshirt junior wide receiver Davonte Allen has potential in droves, but injury and inconsistency kept him from becoming a factor in Marshall's offense the last two seasons. The Belle Glade, Fla., native has recorded just 20 catches for 346 yards and four touchdowns in his career. For the Thundering Herd to reach their offensive ceiling, the team will need another reliable receiver to pair with Shuler. After a strong spring showing, Allen hopes to make that jump.

Schedule analysis

There aren’t many threats to Marshall’s bid for perfection. The Thundering Herd circled the Sept. 13 game against Ohio, hoping to avenge a turnover-plagued 34-31 loss last season. An Oct. 25 meeting with Florida Atlantic could prove critical in the Conference USA East, and a Nov. 15 battle against Rice will be a rematch of last year’s league championship.

Marshall 2014 Schedule
 
date opponent
Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 6 Rhode Island
Sept. 13 Ohio
Sept. 20 at Akron
Oct. 4 at Old Dominion
Oct. 11 Middle Tennessee State
Oct. 18 at Florida International
Oct. 25 Florida Atlantic
Nov. 8 at Southern Miss
Nov. 15 Rice
Nov. 22 at UAB
Nov. 28 Western Kentucky

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