November 07, 2014

Marshall coach Doc Holliday doesn't believe Southern Mississippi is that far away from recapturing its past glory.

The 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) have crushed everyone in their path this season, winning by an average of nearly 30 points per game. Marshall is one of the three remaining undefeated teams in the country, along with No. 1 Mississippi State and No. 2 Florida State.

Even so, Holliday is expecting a good game from Southern Miss (3-6, 1-4) in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

Southern Miss was one of Conference USA's best teams for years, winning a league title as recently as 2011. But the program has fallen on hard times lately, going winless in 2012 before a 1-11 record in 2013.

This fall, the Golden Eagles have been more competitive.

Southern Miss coach ''Todd Monken has done a great job with that program,'' Holliday said. ''He's got them playing a lot better.''

Since Southern Miss has fallen off the past few years, it's Marshall that has emerged as the C-USA powerhouse. The Thundering Herd won 10 games last season, including the Military Bowl, and scored at least 35 points in every game this fall.

Quarterback Rakeem Cato has thrown for 2,130 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He's also run for five touchdowns.

Monken said Southern Miss will have to be much improved to have a chance against the Herd.

''I do feel our guys have continued to play hard,'' Monken said. ''I know we are on the right path. Now we have to find a way to play collectively better. It is going to come. We are just not there yet. I like our guys' attitude.''

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Some things to watch as No. 23 Marshall travels to face Southern Mississippi:

DOMINANT HERD: Marshall hasn't had a particularly challenging schedule this fall and has crushed everyone in its path. Coach Doc Holliday's bunch has won its eight games by an average of nearly 30 points per game and scored at least 35 points in every game.

CATO LEADS: Marshall QB Rakeem Cato is the team's unquestioned star. He's thrown for 2,130 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions this season while also running for five touchdowns. The 6-foot-1 senior has thrown a touchdown pass in an NCAA record 40 straight games.

JOHNSON TOO: Cato gets most of the press for Marshall, but Herd running back Devon Johnson is having a huge season too. The 6-foot-1, 243-pound back has run for 1,203 yards and 15 touchdowns this season while averaging 8.8 yards per carry.

IMPROVING SOUTHERN MISS: The Golden Eagles suffered through two terrible seasons in 2012 and 2013, with a combined 1-23 record over that span. Southern Miss has improved with three victories so far this season. The Golden Eagles could still become bowl eligible, but would need a victory over Marshall to keep that dream alive.

THROUGH THE AIR: The strength of the Southern Miss offense is its passing game, though the Golden Eagles might not have QB Nick Mullens this week because of a right foot injury. Southern Miss has 2,597 yards passing so far this season - including 1,950 by Mullens and 647 by backup Cole Weeks.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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