The sixth annual Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman will be held on December 27, 2013 at the Navy–Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland and features Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference and Marshall of Conference USA (C-USA). This will be the second appearance for Maryland in the event, while Marshall will be making their first appearance. The Terrapins finished fifth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division while Marshall, regular season champions of C-USA’s East Division, lost to Rice in C-USA’s championship game.
On July 14, 2014, Maryland will become a member of the Big Ten Conference, leaving its affiliation with the ACC after over six decades (1952). Current head coach Randy Edsall took over the program in the 2011 season, and has guided the Terps to an overall record of 13-23 over three seasons. The Terrapins began the season 4-0 and ranked 25th before traveling to Florida State and suffering a humiliating 63-0 thrashing. the Terps recovered by going to a multiple-option attack with C.J. Brown under center. Brown threw for 2,045 yards for 11 TDs while giving up just six INTs. Stefon Diggs and Levern Jacobs combined for 74 catches, 1,117 yards and five TDs, but Diggs suffered a broken leg in the Wake Forest game and missed the remainder of the season. Maryland’s ground game was paced by Brandon Ross, who rushed for 660 yards and four TDs, but the most productive runner turned out to be QB Brown who scampered for 538 yards and developed into a red-zone threat with 12 rushing TDs. Another offensive weapon was PK Brad Craddock, the Australian sophomore who connected on 19 of 23 FG attempts.
It was the defense that helped Maryland turn their season around, displaying toughness when their backs were against the wall. DBs Sean Davis, William Likely and Isaac Goins will be counted upon to blanket Marshall’s talented wideouts, while LB Marcus Whitfield (nine sacks) and DL Andre Monroe (8.5) will be charged with applying up-front pressure to slow down the Herd.
In their fourth season under head coach Doc Holliday, the Thundering Herd have been one of 2013’s most prolific offenses, averaging 43.0 ppg (seventh nationally) with a balanced attack. Piling up 291 yards passing and 211 rushing yards per game, Marshall is capable of keeping defenses guessing. Junior QB Rakeem Cato has thrown for 3,579 yards and a school-record 36 TDs in 2013, also demonstrating pin-point accuracy, completing 59.3% of his attempts while being intercepted just nine times. Cato has a bevy of talented receivers, led by Tommy Shuler (97 catches, nine TDs) and TE Gator Hoskins (44 catches, 13 TDs). The Herd can also punish defenses with their running attack, led by the trio of Essray Taliaferro (1,059 yards, nine TDs), Steward Butler (762 yards, eight TDs) and Kevin Grooms (503 yards, six TDs).
The strength of the Thundering Herd on defense is the linebacking corps, led by Evan McKelvey, Jermaine Holmes and Neville Hewitt who combined for 119 tackles and are a swarming, athletic bunch. Marshall doesn’t apply a lot of pass rushing pressure, but is tough as nails against the run and that extends to their secondary, led by elite athletes Monterius Lovett, Darryl Roberts and Corey Tyndal.
Playing relatively close to home will provide some advantage for Maryland, as well as the knowledge that this will be their final appearance as an ACC member prior to joining the Big Ten. However, Maryland is at a disadvantage in athleticism (especially speed) and going up against a Marshall team that will be carrying a slight chip on their shoulder owing to what it feels is a lack of national respect. Expect the Thundering Herd’s offense to constantly keep the Terps off-balance and place plenty of pressure on Maryland’s thin secondary. Oddsmakers are favoring Marshall by 2 1/2 points early, but that may be a bit conservative given the Herd’s offensive explosiveness and the “going up against the big school” factor that Doc Holliday will surely play up during pre-game preparations.