2009 Little Caesars Bowl - Ohio vs. Marshall
Marshall RB Darius Marshall & Ohio WR Taylor Price
Marshall RB Darius Marshall & Ohio WR Taylor Price
Posted Dec 18, 2009

The CFN 2009 Little Caesars Bowl Preview - Ohio vs. Marshall

2009 Little Caesars Bowl

Ohio (9-4) vs. Marshall (6-6)

Detroit, MI, Dec. 26, 1 pm, ESPN

Scroll Down For Bowl Histories & Best Moments

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Team Pages and 2009 Season

- 2008 CFN Motor City Bowl Preview
- 2007 CFN Motor City Bowl Preview
- 2006 CFN Motor City Bowl Preview
National Rankings
O   M
98th Total Offense 78th
52nd Total Defense 99th
75th Scoring Offense 94th
33rd Scoring Defense 59th
94th Rushing Offense 72nd
71st Run Defense 62nd
77th Passing Offense 61st
41st Passing Defense 99th
6th Turnover Margin 86th
Position Ratings
relative to each other
O 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 2
2 RBs 4
3 Receivers 2.5
3 O Line 2.5
2.5 D Line 3
4 Linebackers 2.5
3.5 Secondary 2.5
2.5 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 1.5
Little Caesars (formerly the Motor City) Bowl History
2007 Purdue 51, Central Mich 48
2006 C. Michigan 31, Middle Tenn14
2005 Memphis 38, Akron 31
2004 Connecticut 39, Toledo 10
2003 Bo. Green 28, Northwestern 24
2002 Boston College 51, Toledo 25
2001 Toledo 23, Cincinnati 16
2000 Marshall 25, Cincinnati 14
1999 Marshall 21, BYU 3
1998 Marshall 48, Louisville 29
1997 Mississippi 34, Marshall 31
Old rivals will be meeting in a new game...sort of.

The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl may have a fresh and catchy sound to it, but it's essentially the old Motor City Bowl in Detroit, with a new title sponsor. Ohio and Marshall have actually met 52 times, most recently when both were members of the Mid-American Conference, and are separated by only 90 miles. Since neither school has bowled much this decade or was expected to do so in 2009, this represents a nice reward for raising the bar, especially in Athens.

The Bobcats, pegged to finish somewhere in the middle of the MAC East pack, aren't sizing this up as any ordinary finale. You see, they've never won a bowl game and haven't authored a 10-win season since 1968. Both could happen at Ford Field on Saturday, which serves as considerable motivation.

Coming off a miserable 4-8 season, Ohio was hardly considered a threat at the beginning of the fall. However, under the watchful eye of veteran coach Frank Solich, the Bobcats have located a formula for success that trades star power and big plays for solid, fundamentally-sound football. Although they're 98th nationally in total offense and are short on playmakers, the blueprint has worked. Not only has Ohio won nine games and the MAC East, but its four losses, including games with Connecticut, Tennessee, and Central Michigan, were only by an average of nine points. A resourceful bunch, the Bobcats have relied on a nation's-best 36 takeaways, good special teams play, and a penchant for making critical stops on defense. It's been enough for Solich to earn his second division title and second bowl bid in four years, which is called progress in Athens.

In theory, Mark Snyder needed to get Marshall back to the postseason for the first time since 2004 in order to save his job and get off the perennial hot seat. The Herd is still playing, yet Snyder is no longer employed by the school. Instead, Rick Minter will be the interim head coach while the administration conducts its search for a full-time successor. After four seasons, it had become clear that the program was stuck in neutral and negatively impacting attendance and overall fan interest. The change was made in the hopes of relocating the glory days when 10-win seasons and conference titles were the norm in Huntington.

Save for an early blowout loss in Blacksburg and a late blowout loss in El Paso, the Herd was competitive throughout the year, leaning on the running of Darius Marshall and one of Conference USA's steadier defenses. Before injuring his ankle in early November, Marshall was one of the nation's top rushers, and with the time away from the field, he's hoping to be close to 100% and ready to go full speed. However, the Herd's inability to win the close games prevented it from achieving bigger goals and getting Snyder back on the sidelines for a fifth year. It lost to East Carolina by four, UCF by one, and Southern Miss by seven, squashing any hopes of rising up and snatching away a tight East Division.

Players to Watch: Assuming health isn't an issue, there's absolutely no secret what Marshall plans to do on offense—feed Marshall 25 or 30 times. As an alternate plan, the load will go to redshirt freshman Martin Ward, who ran for 136 yards on SMU in his first career start. While not an imposing athlete, Marshall has great instincts and vision, slipping through holes before they're ready to close. The running game will need to be prolific on this night because Herd QB Brian Anderson's troubles with consistency will be exacerbated by the ball-hawking Ohio defense.

Although the Bobcats aren't always air-tight, they'll compensate with a big-play secondary. Ironically, a redshirt freshman made the biggest headlines this fall in a defensive backfield dominated by seniors, like second team All-MAC CB Thad Turner and FS Patrick Tafua. SS Gerald Moore, a backup when the season began, made it impossible to keep him off the field, making 62 tackles and six interceptions. In front of him are all-star linebackers Noah Keller and Lee Renfro, who combined for 243 stops and will be spying Marshall and Ward all night.

Marshall will have to keep close tabs on WR LaVon Brazill and RB Chris Garrett when Ohio has the ball and even when it doesn't. Two of the Bobcats' more dangerous skill position guys, they're also two of the most explosive return men in the MAC as well. Brazill has taken three punts back for scores to go along with his 50 receptions, and Garrett, the team's leading rusher, has a kickoff return for a touchdown. Considering the problems Ohio has had finishing drives, keeping the special teams units in check will be a must. So, too, will be getting pressure on QB Theo Scott. When given time, he can be a productive passer. However, if LB Mario Harvey and DE Albert McClellan can consistently collapse the pocket, he'll make bad reads and force his throws.

Marshall will win if ... Marshall can recapture his early season form. If you go all the way back to September and early October, the junior had the look of a possible Conference USA Player of the Year candidate. During a four-week stretch, he went for 109, 186, 203, and 141 yards against some decent defenses, like Virginia Tech and East Carolina. The Herd needs to see that player again on Saturday night in Detroit. If Anderson is forced to become the catalyst for the offense, Marshall is in trouble. If he's an adjunct to the ground game, though, he's capable of providing some much-needed balance against the Bobcats. He can be effective in play-action and has access to a decent ensemble of receivers that's gotten more reliable as the season has progressed. TE Cody Slate is the primary target, but wideouts Antavious Wilson, Aaron Dobson, and Charles Walker have all made considerable strides. Unlocking their full potential, however, requires Marshall to spearhead the attack.

Ohio will win if ... Scott has a positive impact on the outcome of the game. The senior doesn't have to be a show-stopper, but he does have to be relevant for the Bobcats to cop that program-first bowl victory. The chains aren't likely to be moving as a result of the 94th-ranked running game and getting the ball in the hands of Brazill, Terrence McCrae, and Taylor Price is a no-brainer. The trio of veteran receivers has caught 19 of the team's 22 touchdown passes and will have the edge on a suspect Marshall defensive backfield. It's incumbent upon Scott to spread the ball around, occasionally making plays with his feet, and avoiding the mistakes that plagued him in the middle of the year. It'll help immensely that he's had a few weeks to rest an injured ankle that severely limited his mobility and ability to plant properly in the MAC Championship game. When Scott has thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions in a game, Ohio is 6-0 this season, so his importance to the overall fortunes of the program are indisputable.

What will happen: Fueled by a little more motivation and a lot more continuity on the sidelines, Ohio is poised to hoist some bowl hardware for the first time in school history. The Bobcats simply do the little things better than the Herd, which will be the difference in a game between two relatively equal programs. Playing inspired on both sides of the ball, they'll once again gain the upper hand in turnover margin, won't miss many tackles, and will get an offensive spark from the special teams. With Brazill and Garrett creating good field position, and young PK Matt Weller showing off his leg, Ohio will cobble together the resources to extend drives and wear down the Marshall defense. Scott will take care of the rest, capping an underrated senior season with a couple of touchdown passes and game MVP honors.

CFN Prediction: Ohio 28 … Marshall 19 ... Line: Ohio -3

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Best Bobcat Bowl Moment: The Bobcats' next bowl victory will also be their first victory, so the high points are scarce. Ohio has taken the collar in its three postseason opportunities, losing to Southern Miss in the 2006 GMAC Bowl, Richmond in the 1968 Tangerine Bowl, and West Texas A&M in the 1962 Sun Bowl.

Best Thundering Herd Bowl Moment: While it's getting hard to recall, Marshall was a postseason regular between 1997 and 2004, routinely arriving as the MAC champion. During that stretch, no game showcased the program's resiliency and quick-strike offense more than the 2001 GMAC Bowl, an instant classic. In the highest scoring game in bowl history, the Herd and QB Byron Leftwich overcame a 30-point halftime deficit to stun East Carolina in double-overtime, 64-61.

Marshall Bowl History (5-2)
2002 GMAC Marshall 38, Louisville 15
2001 GMAC Marshall 64, E. Carolina 61
2000 Motor City Marshall 25, Cincinnati 14
1999 Motor City Marshall 21, BYU 3
1998 Motor City Marshall 48, Louisville 29
1997 Motor City Mississippi 34, Marshall 31
1947 Tangerine Catawba 7, Marshall 0
Ohio Bowl History (0-3)
2006 GMAC Southern Miss 28, Ohio 7
1968 Tangerine Richmond 49, Ohio 42
1962 Sun West Texas A&M 15, Ohio 14