Miami-Ohio (0-0) at Marshall (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 31, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,227) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: CBS Sports Network. Home Record: Miami 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Away Record: Miami 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Neutral Record: Miami 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Conference Record: Miami 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Series Record: Marshall leads, 30-10-1.
GAME NOTES: An old rivalry will be renewed as the Miami-Ohio RedHawks invade Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a regular-season opening matchup against the Marshall Thundering Herd.
Miami and Marshall were one conference rivals until the Herd departed the MAC for the Conference USA. Marshall holds a 30-10-1 all-time series lead over the RedHawks in the rivalry that has been idle since Sept. 29, 2004.
Coach Don Treadwell has led Miami to a 4-8 overall record in both of his seasons at the helm of the program. His teams are just 2-11 on the road and 2-6 in non-conference action. The RedHawks will have a much different look in 2013 as they try to replace many of their key players on offense and defense, including Zac Dysert, the school's all-time leading passer.
The Thundering Herd came up just one win shy of their second straight bowl appearance after they suffered a heart breaking double-overtime loss at East Carolina in their regular-season finale. Coach Doc Holliday has compiled a 17-20 record in his three years with the program. His teams are winless in season openers, although that is understandable considering Marshall faced Ohio State in his debut and West Virginia in the past two openers.
Despite losing their school's record holding quarterback to graduation, the RedHawks actually have an veteran passer back in Austin Boucher, who gained valuable experience in 2010 as a rookie when Dysert suffered a late-season injury. Boucher led Miami to four consecutive wins including victories in the MAC Championship Game and GoDaddy.com bowl.
Boucher could be rusty, as he has only attempted 23 total passes over the past two seasons. Junior wideout Dawan Scott is one of the top players at his position in the MAC. He closed out 2012 with nine catches for 120 yards and a score which helped him arrive at 851 yards for the campaign. Junior wide receiver Luke Swift and senior tight end Steve Marck are going to be valuable assets for Boucher as well.
While it seemed that Miami had an abundance of capable pass catchers in 2012 which helped it to the second most effective aerial assault, the ground game was less fortunate with Jamire Westbrook (361 yards) leading the way. The coach's son, Spencer Treadwell (234 yards) is right behind him on the depth chart in what was the least productive rushing offense in the MAC.
The RedHawks had the 104th ranked average of total yards allowed per game (467.7) yet finished fifth in the MAC in pass defense (226.6 ypg) last season. Brison Burris and Dayonne Nunley were partially responsible for the success against opposing quarterbacks, picking off three passes each. Nunley was named to the first-team All-MAC for his efforts.
Redshirt senior linebacker Chris Wade made an impact in his first full season as a starter as he paced the unit with 128 total stops and eight tackles for loss. He will be the leader of the defensive unit that added 15 players over the offseason.
Wade and company will have their hands full as they clash with their opponent's high-octane offense. Marshall had the top passing attack in the nation last season with an average of 365.1 yards per game through the air. The Herd also ranked in the top 10 in total offense (534.3) and scoring offense (40.9 ppg).
Rakeem Cato has amassed 6,260 yards and 52 touchdowns through the air over his first two seasons as MU's signal caller. He is one of 50 players named to the Walter Camp Award watch list. Cato is the first player to start for the program as a true freshman and sophomore since Chad Pennington, whose all-time school passing record of 13,143 yards may be danger near the end of 2014.
The Herd's receiving corps will have some fresh faces, but the speedy Tommy Shuler is going to be a key returner after notching a program-record 110 catches for 1,238 yards and six scores as a sophomore in 2012. Red zone threat Gator Hoskins led the squad with 10 touchdown receptions last season, which was his first full year as the starting tight end.
MU's rushing attack was up-and-down last season as no one stood out enough to completely take over the full-time duties at halfback. Kevin Grooms gained a team-best 737 yards and scored eight touchdowns on his way to the C-USA Freshman of the Year award. Senior Essray Taliaferro had a very strong finish to the 2012 season after seeing minimal action through the majority of the year.
Chuck Heater took over the defensive coordinator duties over the off-season after holding the same position at Temple from 2011-12. A change was definitely needed as Marshall was one of the worst in all of the FBS in points allowed (43.1) and total defense (456.6 ypg).
D.J. Hunter (6-0, 207) will be one of the key players for Marshall. Hunter was a Freshman All-American as an outside linebacker last year, but will utilize his speed and hard-hitting ability as the starting strong safety in the new nickel package scheme
Freshman linebacker and former Maryland signee Stefan Houston could make an impact immediately playing alongside junior Jermaine Holmes.
Marshall's weakness on the defensive side of the ball will not be a huge factor against Miami's poor offense. Boucher was solid early on in his career, but the RedHawks lack the overall firepower to keep up with the Herd. Holliday's streak of bad luck in openers is likely to finally end.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 42, Miami-Ohio 24
08/28 10:41:46 ET