By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Marshall coach Doc Holliday has expressed confidence that his defense has made strides significant enough to make for an improved season.
At least one person is biting.
USA Today Sports writer Paul Myerberg has been ranking college football teams from 125th all the way to No. 1, and he has the Thundering Herd penciled in at No. 40. That’s one spot below Ohio, the projected Mid-American Conference champion and Marshall opponent on Sept. 14.
Myerberg makes no predictions in his synopsis of the Herd, but he does seem convinced potential exists for this to be by far Marshall’s best season since it joined Conference USA in 2005.
“Marshall goes 11-1, losing only to Virginia Tech in September, and enters the Conference USA title game with a shot at a BCS berth,” Myerberg writes of what he would consider a dream season for the Herd.
“With this team, anything less than six wins would be obscenely disappointing.”
Of course, Holliday’s mentality is that losing once is unacceptable. He’s fine with any expectations of success, because that’s the way it should be.
“It’s a good thing, because everybody must think we’ve got a chance to be pretty good and I’d rather have that than everybody thinking we’re not a very good team and don’t have very good players,” he said. “It’s a good thing, but (the players) will be told multiple times they don’t mean a whole lot.”
Deflecting any outside attention will be a season-long challenge for Holliday and the coaching staff.
“I don’t think (the players) are any different than what the coaches are,” Holliday said. “I enjoy the high expectations. I don’t want to be anywhere where expectations aren’t extremely high. They also have to understand that high expectations mean absolutely nothing. You’ve got to produce on the field.
“It’s all about getting it done (and making) sure they understand that the expectations that are out there are a good thing, but on the other hand they mean absolutely nothing. There’s not a poll I’ve ever read in the preseason that worked out the way it was picked, for the most part.”
Myerberg hasn’t drank all the green Kool-Aid. He acknowledges that his reason for optimism centers around the offense, led by preseason C-USA Player of the Year Rakeem Cato at quarterback. He also knows the defense is still the wild card for Marshall.
“For now, and even if I admit this unit is improved, Marshall’s defense is the reason I can’t take the Herd seriously as a team with the potential to end the year with a national ranking,” Myerberg writes.
“My expectations are extremely high. I don’t think I ever lower my expectations, my standards,” Holliday said. “As the head coach, from a personnel standpoint, I feel better going into this year than I ever have. We’ve got some pieces in place where we’ve got a shot if we take care of business and prepare.”
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