West Virginia Football Season Preview Game One: Marshall Thundering Herd

Hey Mountaineer fans, as I'm sure you know, right now is generally a quiet time in the college football landscape.

Most of the news that comes in this time of the year is either bad news (see: ArkansasOhio State, and Oklahoma State) or general recruiting news as commitments continue to roll in.

Some of the student-athletes are back on campus and starting classes for the summer session as we are just less than three months from the start of the most glorious time of the year: the college football season.

Right now I suppose I'll take the time to make a note of WVU's fifth commit for the 2013 class: four-star linebacker Darrien Howard. The Dayton, Ohio native out of Chaminade-Julienne High School has offers from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, and NC State, among others.  He was set to make a visit to Ohio State's camp on June 10, where he expected to receive an offer, but has since cancelled the trip.

I'll keep you up to date on news (recruiting or otherwise) as it trickles in, but in the meantime I am going to breakdown each of the opponents on West Virginia's 2012 schedule.

So, this will be the first of a twelve-part installment highlighting each team WVU will take on this year.

Marshall Preview

Marshall is one of just two opponents on West Virginia's 2012 schedule that was also on its 2011 slate.

The transition to the Big 12 Conference has WVU's schedule full of unfamiliar foes, so it will be nice to begin the season with a familiar (and what should be a very beatable) opponent.

In last year's season opener, the two bitter in-state rivals played for just over three soggy quarters, until the game was called due to extremely inclement weather.

But, in three quarters (separated by four hours and 22 minutes worth of delays) West Virginia ripped Marshall for 34 points, led by quarterback Geno Smith's 249 yards passing and Tavon Austin's 100-yard kick return to the endzone.

The Mountaineer running game was still finding itself back at the start of last season, netting only 42 yards in the Coal Bowl.

Meanwhile, the WVU defense kept the Herd out of the endzone, allowing just two field goals to go with Andre Booker's 87-yard punt return touchdown.

The Marshall offense played a conservative game, as it avoided turnovers but only netted 187 total yards.

This season the Marshall offense, which returns eight starters in 2012, figures to be much improved.

The Thundering Herd will return their leading passer, two leading rushers, and two of their top three receivers from 2011.

Wide receiver Aaron Dobson is Marshall's biggest scoring threat and possibly best overall player.

The senior from Dunbar, W. Va. accounted for 12 touchdowns last year and allegedly runs a 4.33 40-yard dash—pretty impressive for a guy who is 6'3", 204-pounds.

Another key to stopping Marshall will be slowing down its tough one-two punch at running back represented by Tron Martinez and Travon Van.

The Mountaineer defense was suspect against the run at times last season, so if Martinez and Van are allowed to run free, that could definitely lengthen the game.

Despite the threat the Herd may pose offensively, I just don't see their defense being able to slow down the WVU passing attack.

Case (no pun intended) and point: Case Keenum and Houston's 63-28 drubbing of Marshall last season.

Keenum went off for 367 passing yards and six touchdowns and became the NCAA career leader in total offense.

Marshall actually had more than 500 yards of total offense in the game, but it didn't matter as the Cougar offense ran circles around the Herd defense for more than 600 total yards.

I anticipate the West Virginia offense to do the same and tear through Marshall to explode out of the gates in 2012.

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