Marshall, Rice face off for C-USA title
The Sports Xchange
NCAAF Team Report - Tulsa - INSIDE SLANT
The run-first, physical brand of football is what's worrying Marshall coach Doc Holliday entering Saturday's Conference USA Championship Game Saturday in Houston.
"They are an extremely physical football team," Holliday said.
Rice RB Charles Ross is one of the top offensive weapons in the entire league. Ross, a senior, has rushed for 114.3 yards per game and 12 touchdowns this year. It's part of a Rice rushing offense that leads the conference this year with 240.3 yards per game.
But Marshall knows what it's doing on offense, too. The Thundering Herd, at 44.6 points per game, led the league in offense this year. It's a two-dimensional one, too, one with QB Rakeem Cato and RB Essray Taliaferro.
Rice will need a strong game from QB Taylor McHargue. The Owls have not been pass-happy this year, and a two-dime signal Rice team will be hard to beat.
The Pirates (9-3, 6-2 C-USA) seemed to have the inside track for most of the year before falling in a rout at Marshall with the East Division title on the line. Still, with the league's top QB in Shane Carden and one of the league's two best offenses, East Carolina won't be an easy out for anyone in a bowl. Plus, the Pirates are operating at a level under Ruffin McNeill that they haven't in some time in Greenville, which might make him a hot commodity.
It took quite the effort for the Owls (6-6, 4-4) to win four in a row and rally around their interim coach, but FAU might be on the outside looking in as it pertains to bowl chances. The bigger question? Who will coach them next year?
It wasn't just that year one under Ron Turner ended in 11 losses, it was more about how the Panthers arrived there. FIU (1-11, 1-7) showed very little offense and ended the year as one of the nation's worst attacks. But FIU was also one of the country's youngest teams, which might harbor some reasons for optimism next year.
The Bulldogs (4-8, 3-5) took a noticeable step back in offensive performance from 2012 to 2013, and the loss column rose in lock-step. Still, it was year one under Skip Holtz, and there is potential for improvement next year especially with young running backs.
The Thundering Herd (8-3, 6-1) took East Division supremacy in a big way last week, dispatching East Carolina 59-28. It was a testament to just how solid QB Rakeem Cato is -- and just how two-dimensional the Herd has developed into.
GAME PREVIEW: vs. Marshall, C-USA Championship game, Saturday, Dec. 7, at Rice Stadium in Houston. The Thundering Herd's rushing offense (219.9 yards per game) and its passing offense (293.3 ypg) are among the best in the league, but they'll be up against a strong Rice defense.