The Thundering Herd have a favorable schedule, one of the nation's best quarterbacks and plenty of backers heading into the first year of the College Football Playoff. Can they bust up the new system? The UD panel weighs in:
Dieter Kurtenbach – Conference USA Manager
I expect the Herd to Thunder through non-conference, C-USA play and the C-USA conference championship game without a loss in 2014. The schedule is too easy, there are too many questions about even the best opponents it lines up, and in the worst of worst-case scenarios, they can out-score any team they play without incident.
Seriously though, it's laughable how easy Marshall's schedule is. This is an offense that's amongst the best in the nation and a defense that's stout, even if it is overshadowed — and that team's toughest opponents in Conference USA play are FAU, Rice and MTSU are all coming to Huntington. Its conference road schedule: at Old Dominion, FIU, Southern Miss and UAB. If Marshall holds serve at home — and there's no reason to think they won't — the toughest game on the docket this season might be a Week Four game at Akron, who's a good team, but the Herd should be heavy favorites. That's as cupcake as cupcake gets, and because of that, I expect the Herd to be knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff come Dec. 7.
Adam Rosenfield - North Texas Beat Writer
Yes. This is the year the country (well, West Virginia) will be singing "we are marshall". The Thundering Herd won't climb very high in the Top 25 rankings due to a schedule where the scariest non-conference game is Tier Two (according to the SB Nation college football preview) MAC member Ohio and the hardest conference game is a home game at Rice.
Rakeem Cato might make a little bit of Heisman noise, but that 12 (possible 13-0 mark will come with a little asterisk.
Sydney Hunte - Old Dominion Beat Writer
Sure, they have the best player in the league in Rakeem Cato, and maybe the easiest schedule, but I'm not 100% sold on the theory of Marshall not losing a game I am positive you can mark these games down as wins: FIU, Miami (Ohio), UAB and Southern Miss (4-44 record combined last year), along with FCS Rhode Island (3-9).
But, then there's Rice and a C-USA title game rematch. While the Herd will be looking to avenge last year's loss, the defending champs will be coming in with the assurance that they've beaten Marshall already. I'd also keep an eye on Middle Tennessee and Ohio — definitely a pair of games that will be traps.
Ultimately I don't think Marshall will end the season undefeated. They're inarguably C-USA's top team, but I foresee a 11-1 or 10-2 record.
Al Burke - Sun Belt Confernece Manager
The simple answer is no. This is is a fine team, with one of the best quarterbacks and offenses in the nation, and a serviceable defense. The Herd are very capable of winning C-USA. In fact, it's almost a given -- but they won't go undefeated. A couple of MAC foes in Ohio and Akron (away) are the biggest concerns in non-league play, but if they trip up, I believe it will be in a conference game. The Herd lost three games last season to conference foes, and two of them, Middle Tennessee and Rice, are back. Throw in Sun Belt defector Western Kentucky and there are some tough outings. Marshall could beat any of the teams in C-USA, but this isn't one of the Marshall teams from around the turn of the century — this is a team that struggled to win close games last season (1-3 record). They have talent, but do they have the toughness?