Military Bowl preview

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
9:00
AM ET
Maryland is hoping it goes out with a win against Marshall in its final game representing the ACC, but the Thundering Herd won't be a pushover in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

The two teams face each other at 2:30 p.m. ET on Friday (ESPN). Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: The quarterbacks. Marshall's 6-foot signal-caller, Rakeem Cato, is one of the better-kept secrets in the FBS. He has passed for 3,579 yards this season, in addition to 36 TDs and nine interceptions. He's a junior, but he has already solidified his status as one of the better quarterbacks in school history. He's third in career passing touchdowns (88) for the Thundering Herd and sits behind two other Marshall QBs whom you might recognize: former NFL players Byron Leftwich and Chad Pennington. Maryland isn't too bad at this position, either. C.J. Brown's numbers haven't been nearly as eye-popping, but the dual-threat QB has struggled with injuries throughout the season -- and he's finally healthy. He was instrumental in late-season wins against Virginia Tech and NC State, and he punished teams on the ground and through the air. He threw for 2,045 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 538 yards and 12 TDs.

What to watch: Marshall's offense vs. Maryland's defense in the red zone. The Terps' secondary should have its hands full with the Thundering Herd already, but the red zone presents a whole new set of problems. Doc Holliday's offense has been incredibly balanced inside the 20-yard line, as it has ended up with 26 rushing TDs to 22 passing TDs. Marshall is seventh in the nation in red-zone offense by scoring on 91.8 percent of its trips. Maryland's defense, on the other hand? Well, this could end up being quite the mismatch. The Terrapins haven't fared well at all by ranking 111th in red-zone defense. They've allowed scores on 89.6 percent of their opponents' drives inside the 20. Marshall is a high-scoring offense and can win in a shootout. If Maryland struggles in this area, it might not be able to catch up.

Why to watch: Well, it's either watch this football game or no football game at all. This will be the only televised game for three-and-a-half hours, so that's a pretty big selling point. The matchup itself isn't the most intriguing -- Mark Schlabach ranked it No. 31 out of 35, in terms of interesting bowl games -- but Maryland is still looking to end its final game as a member of the ACC on a high note. Third-year Maryland head coach Randy Edsall hasn't yet won a bowl game, while Marshall is trying to prove it can play with teams from the AQ conferences. Plus, the game is about only a 30-minute drive from Maryland's campus, so it'll be interesting to see how well the fans travel. It should be a nice sneak peek for Big Ten fans for what they can expect.

Prediction: Marshall 38, Maryland 34

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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