Orlando Sentinel college insider Matt Murschel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.

Today at No. 84: Marshall

Coach: Doc Holliday (17-20, 4th season; 17-20 overall)

2012 record: 5-7 (4-4 Conference USA; tied for third in C-USA Eastern Division)

Look back: The Thundering Herd were defined more by their outstandingly terrible defense than their explosive offense, which existed on complete opposite ends of the spectrum in 2012. Marshall was among the highest-scoring teams in the country, averaging 40.9 points per game, but was also second-worst in the country in scoring defense, allowing 43.1 points per outing. The defensive weaknesses were especially exposed in losses to Purdue (51-41), Tulsa (45-38), UAB (38-31) and East Carolina in double overtime (65-59). They were high scoring contests during which the offense just couldn’t keep up. As a result, Marshall was on the outside looking in during bowl season.

Offensive starters returning: 8

Offensive starters lost: 3

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: WR Antavious Wilson, WR Aaron Dobson, OL John Bruhin, DL Marques Aiken, LB Devin Arrington, DB Dominick LeGrande, DB Okechukwu Okoroha, RS Andre’ Snipes-Booker

Top returnees: QB Rakeem Cato, WR Tommy Shuler, WR, Devon Smith, TE Gator Hoskins, OL Chris Jasperse, DL Jeremiah Taylor, LB Jermaine Holmes, DL Alex Bazzie, DB D.J. Hunter, P Tyler Williams

Strengths: Marshall returns most of the country’s top-ranked passing game. Last season’s C-USA offensive player of the year, QB Rakeem Cato, passed for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns with just 11 interceptions. He completed 69.5 percent of his passes, ranking fourth-best in the country. He led the nation in passing yards, passing yards per game, passes completed and attempts. He will get to work with WR Tommy Shuler (110 catches, 1,138 yards, 6 TDs) and TE Gator Hoskins (35 catches, 374 yards) and all but one starting lineman.

Weaknesses: The Herd will look to overhaul the defense under a new coordinator, Chuck Heater. The team must replace both starting safeties and a linebacker while simultaneously improving a unit that was equally porous stopping the run (203 yards per game) as the pass (254 yards per game). Marshall returns some production up front and will move DB D.J. Hunter (102 tackles) to safety, but there are plenty of questions marks about who will plug holes elsewhere on the defense. The Herd need to improve in the pass rush, too, though they return their top two rush linemen in Jeremiah Taylor and Brandon Sparrow, who combined for 10.5 of the team’s 19 sacks.

Outlook: After narrowly missing out on a second consecutive bowl season, Marshall has to feel confident going into 2013 considering its firepower on offense. With the bulk of the defense returning and nowhere to go but up on that side of the ball, the Herd could find itself in a better position in a conference welcoming several new teams this season that should present better matchups. Cato and the Herd could get off to a hot start in conference play and sneak into the top of the C-USA, battling East Carolina for the East Division title.

2013 schedule

Aug. 31 Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 7 Gardner-Webb

Sept. 14 at Ohio

Sept. 21 at Virginia Tech

Oct. 5 UTSA

Oct. 12 at FAU

Oct. 24 at Middle Tennessee

Nov. 2 Southern Miss

Nov. 9 UAB

Nov. 14 at Tulsa

Nov. 23 at FIU

Nov. 29 East Carolina