Schedule and Odds
Marshall lost quarterback Rakeem Cato and yet is still projected to reach double-digit wins. The Thundering Herd’s over/under is set at 10 wins (at sportsbook.ag), and they are favored to win Conference USA at +230. They went 13-1 last year with their only loss coming in the regular season finale at Western Kentucky, a 67-66 overtime Game. How will this team do it with only 12 starters expected to return?
The Herd scored 45.6 points per Game in 2014, but that was with Four-year starter Cato leading the way with 48 total touchdowns. The new quarterback will be Michael Birdsong, who was given the job almost immediately in the spring. Birdsong is a junior, but does not have any Game experience at the FBS level (played 14 Games in FCS with James Madison). Fortunately, the offense will still have running back Devon Johnson (1,767 yards, 17 TDs) to move the sticks and ultimately keep them going.
Birdsong will have some help at receiver with sophomores Angelo Jean-Louis and Deon-Tay McManus, but losing Tommy Shuler (322 catches all-time) is also going to be a blow for the offense. The offensive line returns three starters, including all-Conference man Clint Van Horn and shouldn’t step back at all.
Marshall was also a solid team defensively last year allowing 21 points per Game and a reason they had a chance at an undefeated season. However, only five starters return and this group won’t be as talented.
The Thundering Herd will build around the pieces that remain in tackle Jarquez Samuel and linebacker D.J. Hunter. Other than that, the rest will all be new faces in the front seven, including a few transfers. The secondary is in a little better situation with every spot returning some kind of experience including A.J. Leggett and Taj Letman at safety.
With a manageable non-Conference slate, there’s no reason Marshall can’t get to 10 wins again. They get Purdue in the opener and Birdsong’s first Game as the starter, but other than that, really only have some road Games at mediocre MAC teams to be worried of. In C-USA play, Marshall has a fairly nice Schedule, until they get to November road Games at Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Other than that, it’s mostly smooth sledding for this team.
The Herd’s Schedule is friendly, but with a new quarterback and plenty of talent gone on the defensive side, this isn’t the same team as a year ago. They will once again contend for the Conference title, but those late-season road tests may be too much for them to win another C-USA title.
2015 Marshall Football Schedule
Sept. 6 vs. Purdue
Sept. 12 at Ohio
Sept. 19 vs. Norfolk State
Sept. 26 at Kent State
Oct. 3 vs. Old Dominion
Oct. 9 vs. Southern Miss
Oct. 17 at Florida Atlantic
Oct. 24 vs. North Texas
Oct. 31 at Charlotte
Nov. 7 at Middle Tennessee
Nov. 14 vs. Florida International
Nov. 27 at Western Kentucky