Marshall Thundering Herd (9-4) vs. Maryland Terrapins (7-5)
Dec. 27, 2:30 p.m. ET, Annapolis, Md. (ESPN)
MARSHALL THUNDERING HERD BREAKDOWN
The Thundering Herd rode an impressive five-game winning streak into the Conference USA championship game, where they lost 41-24 to Rice. Nonetheless, Marshall averaged 53.8 points per game during that streak to end the regular season, showing off an explosive offense that should make for an entertaining bowl appearance.
Led by quarterback Rakeem Cato (3,579 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, nine interceptions), Marshall boasts one of the most explosive offenses in the country. The Thundering Herd are seventh nationally in scoring (43 PPG) and 12th in total offense (502.3 YPG), showing off balance between run (211.2 YPG, 22nd nationally) and pass (291.2, 21st).
Oddly enough, Marshall and Maryland have produced similar results against common opponents. Maryland beat Virginia Tech 27-24 in overtime, while Marshall fell 29-21 against the Hokies in three overtimes. Similarly, Maryland beat Florida International 43-10, while Marshall was a 48-10 winner against FIU. -- David Ching
MARYLAND TERRAPINS BREAKDOWN
The list of injuries for Randy Edsall’s crew in the past two seasons is long and gruesome. But while the 2012 season was sunk when too much star power was relegated to the sideline, this season’s team managed to overcome.
The season started in grand fashion with four straight wins and an appearance in the AP Top 25 before the Terrapins ran into the buzz saw that was Florida State. Maryland was crushed 63-0 and left Tallahassee bruised and battered.
But with its bowl hopes suddenly dimmed, Edsall’s group rebounded to win two of its final three, including a 41-21 drubbing of NC State in the program’s final ACC game.
The difference between this season’s seven-win team and last season’s four-win disaster was mostly Brown. Maryland cycled through five different quarterbacks in 2012, resorting, finally, to a converted linebacker to lead the offense. In 2013, Brown provided a far more appealing option, accounting for 23 touchdowns -- just five fewer than the Terps scored as a team in 2012.
Maryland’s 7-5 finish fell short of the high expectations its 4-0 start suggested, but the Terps still won one more game than Edsall did in his first two seasons as coach, and they’re playing a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
As Maryland prepares for a move to the Big Ten in 2014, that’s big progress. -- David Hale