Football coaches like to accentuate the positives of their opponents, lest their comments get taped all over their locker rooms.
But Louisville coach Charlie Strong cites hard evidence for his praise of Marshall: Thundering Herd 26, Southern Mississippi 20.
Strong knows the Thundering Herd hasn't distinguished itself since that Sept. 10 victory, but he knows what a handful the Golden Eagles can be. Strong's Cardinals outlasted Southern Miss 31-28 at the Beef O'Brady's Bowl last December in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The victory capped a 7-6 first season for Strong, but it wasn't easy. Chris Philpott booted a 36-yard field goal with 6:18 left to cap a rally from a 21-7 deficit. The Cardinals were outgained 396-287.
Philpott is back this year, but the Cardinals bade farewell to their quarterback, leading rusher (Bilal Powell) and top two receivers from that game, plus their top tackler.
Some stars of the bowl are back, though. Tight end Josh Chichester caught a touchdown pass and Jeremy Wright returned a kickoff 95 yards to answer Southern Miss' go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
One player who was not there was Victor Anderson, the 2008 Big East rookie of the year who averaged more than 30 yards a kickoff return last year.
Marshall will have to contend with a 6-foot-8, 240-pound force at tight end in Chichester. The senior has 78 career catches for 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns, and had 111 yards receiving Sept. 10 against Florida International.
The Herd will face two potential NFL prospects at the position in two weeks. Chichester is 24th at the position in the early ESPN rankings; Central Florida's Adam Nissley is three spots ahead.
"He's athletic," Herd coach Doc Holliday said of Chichester. "Not only do they use him as an attached tight end, they flex him out. At times you think they'll be '11' personnel [one back, one tight end], but they'll be '10' personnel because at the line they go four wides. They flex him into space.
"He can run; he's a big target."
Perhaps it's because Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden have taken their "wildcat" skills to the NFL. Or maybe it's because the gadget offense didn't work well everywhere (Marshall was a notorious example).
In any event, Louisville is a dying breed. The Cardinals have utilized a "Wild Card" formation, with some success. The "quarterback" is Dominique Brown, a 6-foot-2, 221-pound sophomore.
In the Cardinals' 24-17 win over Kentucky two weekends ago, Brown was the leading rusher with 91 yards on 14 carries. His long was 23 yards, after which he gave way to Will Stein. Stein then threw 38 yards to Andrell Smith to give Louisville a 7-3 lead.