Editor's note: This is the first in a series of previews on West Virginia and Marshall football opponents.
Checking them out
It's not that the Thundering Herd won't be interesting. Defensive end Vinny Curry is garnering preseason All-American mention, the secondary could be the best in several years and running back Travon Van is now eligible to display his explosiveness.
But offensive line depth is a nagging issue, and the quarterback situation is potentially frightening. And then there is that schedule, almost indisputably the toughest among Conference USA teams.
There are just five home games. The nonconference game is ACC powerhouse Virginia Tech and the home opener is Southern Mississippi, which could rise atop the East Division. On the road, Ohio is tougher than usual, Houston gets Heisman candidate Case Keenum back for a sixth year and Tulsa is back to scoring at will.
The Herd can't even get a break in playing at miserable Memphis - that game was changed to a Thursday night for TV, five days after the Tulsa trip.
But if the Herd can't square away its QB situation, the schedule will be just a lame excuse. A.J. Graham looked like the answer for one game last year before suffering the mother of all high ankle sprains, but he didn't pull away in an underwhelming spring battle with Eddie Sullivan. Aaron Dobson and Antavius Wilson lead a receiving corps that could be deep and speedy, though promising freshman Conelius Jones departed.
But can Graham, Sullivan or one of two freshmen stay upright to get them the ball? The line has three veterans up front, but needs center John Bruhin's back to finally hold up and juco import Colin Munro to pan out.
The defense needs a capable counterpart to Curry at end (juco Terry Franklin?) and ready-to-play reinforcements at linebacker (Armonze Daniel?). Cornerback may be a position battle with no loser, and the safety duo of Omar Brown and D.J. Hunter may be the league's best. Achilles' heel of 2010: Defending runs up the middle vs. spread offenses.
Special teams feature seniors at punter and kicker, but Kase Whitehead and Tyler Warner haven't stood out in a league of high-level booters. Return talent is there (Troy Evans, Andre Booker, Van), but coverage units will have to be very, very good. Again, look at the schedule.
In the era of the 12-game season, Marshall faced seven road games in 2003 (8-4) and 2006 (5-7) . . . Perhaps one of these days, the Herd will win the season turnover battle. It has not done so since joining C-USA, going minus-39 in six years . . . Marshall had 364 total yards against WVU in the 2010 game, just 1 short of the combined total in the 2008 and 2009 seasons . . . Speaking of total yardage, the Herd went minus-449 against division rivals Central Florida, East Carolina and Southern Miss.