Marshall, OSU can run table
The preseason football hype is -thankfully -almost over.
Then all those talking heads present company included -can shut up and let each team’s season begin playing itself out.
But before the first football goes in the air, there’s still enough time for some preseason prognosticating.
I’ll save my prediction on West Virginia University for next Sunday’s column, which will be followed by Monday Morning Quarterback Blaine Myers, back for his 27th season, the following day.
For now, we will concentrate on the other major college football programs of high local interest -Marshall University, Ohio University and Ohio State University.
The amazing thing is if 2014 is a typical year, there will be less than a handful of teams run the table and go undefeated this fall. Yet, two of the above three teams are in the elite group that have a chance of doing just that.
Start with Marshall, where John ‘Doc’ Holliday will enter his fifth season as the head coach. The former state wrestling champion at Hurricane High School inherited a struggling program but has turned it into a powerhouse that is considered the favorite in Conference USA.
Thanks to the immense talent of Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, Marshall is being mentioned as a top 25 program.
The best way to determine how a football team’s season will go is to match the level of its talent against those who it will play. If you do that, you can’t find a team on Marshall’s schedule who can match the Herd man-for-man.
Plus, perhaps the two biggest games of the season, on Sept. 13 against Ohio University, which has beaten the Herd by a field goal each of the past two seasons, and Nov. 15 versus C-USA power Rice, both are in Huntington.
The Herd has the offense to run the table. If it can up its defensive play, an unbeaten season is a distinct possibility. I can’t find an opponent on the schedule that should beat the Herd, and few that will even be competitive, so let’s call Marshall 12-0 heading into the C-USA title game.
Since I already mentioned Ohio University, let’s look next at the Bobcats. Quarterback Tyler Tettleton and running back Beau Blankenship -the two stalwarts who led the Bobcats to the first two bowl victories in school history -have graduated, and that has to be a major body blow for coach Frank Solich’s program.
The good news is that Solich -despite rumors he was going to retire following last season -is back. He’s a veteran who knows how to prepare a team and get the most out of the available talent.
The problem is the available talent can’t match that of the past three seasons. Plus, the opening three weeks could be rough as Ohio must make consecutive road trips to Kent State, Kentucky and Marshall. You can survive that with a veteran team like last year’s, but a younger, inexperienced team could start out 0-3.
Ohio looks like a .500 team, but given Solich’s ability to always win one his team isn’t supposed to, we’ll call the Bobcats 7-5.
On to Columbus, where Urban Meyer has recruited so much talent Ohio State’s second team could beat many others’ first string. Of OSU’s four non-conference opponents -Navy, Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati -only the season opener against the Midshipmen is on the road and only the Sept. 6 home opener versus Virginia Tech is against an opponent that should be competitive.
In all probability, OSU’s season will come down to two games -versus Michigan State and Michigan -and both are in the Horseshoe, where Ohio loses about as often as a Southeastern Conference team doesn’t play for the national championship.
Still, it’s hard to finish a season in a Power 5 conference unbeaten, so the call here is 11-1.