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5 Reasons to Watch the Military Bowl

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5 Reasons Why You Can't Miss the Military Bowl

Greg Bartram - USA Today Sports

The Marshall Thundering Herd will meet the Maryland Terrapins in Annapolis on December 27 for the Military Bowl.

Many college football fans who are not fans of Marshall or Maryland may think that this game is not worth watching. That is not the case. Both fans and non-fans alike should check out this game for a few different reasons.

Marshall has been working their way back to the greatness of the teams of the 1990s and early 2000s. They were the winningest college football team of the 1990s, winning two Division I-AA national championships in 1992 and 1996. They continued their winning ways when they moved to the MAC in 1997. Marshall won MAC championships every year from 1997-2000 as well as 2002 and were ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation in 1999. They moved to their current conference, Conference USA, in 2005. Since joining the Conference USA they have not had much success. This season’s appearance in the Military Bowl will be just their third bowl appearance since joining the conference but also their third bowl game since 2009. Marshall has only made one appearance in the Conference USA championship game, and that was this season in a loss to the Rice Owls. Marshall has showed flashes of greatness since coach Doc Holliday took over in 2010. Fans who remember the glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s are hoping to witness the same in the near future. They definitely have the potential with Holliday being one of the best recruiters in the nation. A win in this bowl game would give Marshall its first 10-win season since 2002.

Maryland, on the other hand, had a disappointing 7-5 season with all five of their losses coming in conference play. They did show some progress in their last season in the ACC, as they will move to the Big Ten next season. They opened the 2013 season with four straight wins and were nationally ranked for the first time since 2008. Though the Military Bowl is not far from their campus and is essentially a home game for them, they will face a challenge in Marshall.

Many of the reasons why college football fans should watch this game have to do with Marshall. They have not received much national attention since their glory days, so many football fans may not have had the opportunity to watch them this season. Their recent flashes of greatness remind fans of those glory days, and by watching this game fans could be witnessing a part of their return to greatness.

Here are the top five reasons why college football fans should watch the Military Bowl.

Jenna Aquino is a Big Ten Football writer for Follow her on Twitter, "Like" her on Facebook, add her to your network on Google, or reach her by e-mail at

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5. Marshall’s Potential for Greatness

Greg Bartram - USA Today Sports

Marshall has shown great improvement this season with a much more effective defense and one of the best offenses in the country. They rank within the top 25 in the nation in total yards per game, passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, and points scored per game. This Marshall team has shown much improvement just since last season when they didn’t even reach a bowl game. From the beginning of October until the end of November they won seven of eight games with their only loss coming to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders on a last-second touchdown. Marshall had a five-game winning streak in which they averaged 53.8 points per game before losing to Rice in the Conference USA championship game, including a big 59-28 win over their conference rival East Carolina Pirates on November 29 to clinch the East Division of the conference. If you have not witnessed the explosiveness of Marshall’s offense this season then you are missing out.

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4. Marshall’s Running Game

Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Marshall has a strong ground attack that averages 211.2 yards per game and ranks No. 22 in the nation. The running game is led by Essray Taliaferro, who has run for 1,059 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also averages 5.2 yards per carry. Steward Butler is also a large part of Marshall’s rushing attack, rushing for 762 yards and eight touchdowns in 2013. They could likely be very successful against a Maryland defense that has allowed 150 or more rushing yards in six of their last eight games and allowed over 200 yards in four of those games.

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3. Gator Hoskins/Tommy Shuler

Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Marshall’s passing game also ranks No. 22 in the nation due in large part to tight end Gator Hoskins and wide receiver Tommy Shuler. Hoskins has 717 receiving yards and 13 touchdown catches this season, which is the most touchdown catches by any tight end in the country. His 44 receptions are second only to Shuler, who ranked among the national leaders with 97 receptions, 1,097 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns this season.

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2. Marshall’s Explosive Offense

Peter Casey - USA Today Sports

As I said before, anyone who has not witnessed Marshall’s offense this season is missing out. They rank No. 12 in the country in total offense with 502.3 yards per game. They are No. 22 in their rushing and passing offenses with 211.2 yards rushing per game and 291.2 passing yards per game, and they are No. 7 in scoring with 43 points per game. Part of what makes their offense so effective is its balance. The coaches do a good job of mixing up the pass plays and running plays making the Marshall offense difficult to defend.

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1. Rakeem Cato

Steve Mitchell - USA Today Sports

Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato could be considered one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He and Marshall don’t get the national attention that others do, so many college football fans may not be aware of how great a quarterback he really is. He has thrown for 3,579 yards this season with 36 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Cato’s 36 touchdown passes are tied for third in the nation. He also has a 59 percent completion percentage and is an effective runner when he cannot find an open receiver or needs to pick up a short first down. Cato is the biggest reason why this offense has been so effective. The chemistry between him and Hoskins in undeniable, but even more so is the chemistry he has with former high school teammate and long-time friend Shuler. Cato has the potential to help lead Marshall to greatness.

If you watch the Military Bowl, you will see what I mean. Cato has great talent, and it is unfortunate that he and this Marshall team do not get more national attention.