Five burning questions heading into Cincinnati

Chris McLaughlin, Publisher
Herd Nation

1. What will Marshall do at running back?  

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Former starter Trey Rodriguez left the program following the Kent Statevictory and while his departure certainly hurts from a depth perspective, it was clear R-FR Tyler King and Keion Davis were both in line for more carries moving forward even before the Rodriguez move was announced. King stormed onto the scene against the Golden Flashes, taking over the game in the 4th quarter and turning what was a nail-biter for Herd fans into a comfortable win. Davis has been Marshall's most consistent back this year and continues to shine as a kick returner. Keep an eye on true freshman Brenden Knox, who opened some eyes in fall camp but has been slowed by injuries to start the year. He could have his red-shirt pulled this week and get some carries.

2. Will Jordan Dowrey and Sandley Jean-Felix be back?  

Alex Mollette did a nice job filling in for Jordan Dowrey against Kent State and undoubtedly has a solid future, but the Thundering Herd is a better unit up front with Dowrey's grit and aggression in the lineup. The same goes for Sandley-Jean Felix. Yes, A.J. Addison performed admirably against NCSU and KSU, but Jean-Felix is on a different level in terms of natural ability and takes the entire performance of the line up a notch or two when he's in the lineup. Dowrey seems almost certain to be back while all signs are pointing towards SJF returning as well.

3. Can the defense keep it up?  

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Yes, it was Kent State. And yes, Kent State was forced to play its back-up QB most of the game. I get it and frankly, I don't care. Any time a FBS school pitches a shutout against another FBS school it is a big deal. Marshall is clearly improved on defense and is looking much like the dominant squads defensive coordinator Chuck Heater produced from 2013-2015. The Thundering Herd has a chance to make another statement against what appears to be a fairly benign UC offense. QB Hayden Moore can certainly sling it and WR Khlail Lewis will likely cause some problems for Marshall DBs, but there's no reason the Thundering Herd can't build on it's strong week three defensive performance.

4. Will the bye week be a factor?  

The game after bye weeks have not been kind to Marshall in recent years. In 2015, MU was pounded by WKU (49-28) coming off a bye. in 2013, Marshall lost a heart-breaker to MTSU (51-49). Most coaches have a love-hate relationship with bye week. Outwardly, they'll tell you they like bye weeks because they allow for injuries to heal and players to rest. But coaches also know bye weeks can disrupt momentum if a team is playing well - especially if the bye comes early in the season. Head coach Doc Holliday is hoping 2017s bye week only does the former, not the latter.

5. Can Marshall score an out-of-conference win on the road against a team outside the MAC? 

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The last time Marshall beat a team on the road that didn't reside in the Mid-American conference was 2011 against Louisville. The Herd is 0-5 with losses at WVU, Va Tech, Purdue, Pitt and North Carolina State since downing the Cardinals with a freshman QB named Rakeem Cato. Saturday's match-up against UC is much more winnable (on paper) than any of the previously mentioned games.

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