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1. The year after the year after
I was right and wrong about Marshall last year.
The Thundering Herd entered 2015 having produced, and then lost a good percentage of, their best FBS team. The 2014 squad had finished 13-1 and 23rd in the AP poll; that didn't match the 1999 team in achievement (13-0 and 10th), but in quality, 2014 was the pinnacle. The Herd were 17th in F/+, 19th in SRS, etc., and they could have finished even higher if not for a November fade.
2014 was awesome. And in 2015, Marshall picked up the pieces. Quarterback Rakeem Cato was replaced by a true freshman. Record-setting slot receiver Tommy Shuler was gone, and his replacement had to move to running back. Two starters on the offensive line and three on the defensive line were gone, as were two of the top three linebackers and an incredibly active cornerback in Darryl Roberts.
Attrition ended up worse than expected. Star running back Devon Johnson missed much of the season with a back injury. Backup Steward Butler was kicked off. Top returning receiver Angelo Jean-Louis and safety A.J. Leggett left. Star offensive tackle Clint Van Horn missed most of the season with injury.
I said in my 2015 preview that I would be surprised if Marshall sank below 10 wins, even with all the transition; thanks to quality play at home, the Herd did not. That they went 10-3 and finished 58th in F/+ in the face of such turnover was encouraging.
Under Doc Holliday, Marshall continues to recruit at a different level than the rest of Conference USA. Per the 247Sports Composite, the Herd have signed the No. 1 class in the conference for four straight years. They take on guys with qualification and character concerns -- they are Last Chance U in many ways -- and while that risks reputation issues (and therefore a shorter leash if bad seasons pop up), it establishes a deep base of talent.
After years of struggling to play to their talent level, Holliday's Herd have done just that. They are 33-8 since the start of 2013, 20-3 in C-USA play, and have won double-digit games for three straight years, something they hadn't done since their 1997-99 entry into FBS. The 2016 season will challenge the streak of double-digit wins, and it might take another year before the Herd move forward again.
2015 Schedule & Results
|Record: 10-3 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 58 | Final S&P+ Rk: 64|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|26-Sep||at Kent State||109||36-29||W||14%||27%||-6.0||0.0|
|17-Oct||at Florida Atlantic||96||33-17||W||66%||96%||+12.5||+9.5|
|7-Nov||at Middle Tennessee||82||24-27||L||24%||24%||-11.2||0.0|
|27-Nov||at Western Kentucky||15||28-49||L||10%||0%||-10.0||-10.5|
|Points Per Game||31.3||51||17.8||10|
2. Huntington, sweet Huntington
One characteristic that defines high-upside, low-experience teams is a drastic difference in quality between home games and away games. Marshall boasted that in 2015.
- Average Percentile Performance (home): 72% (record: 6-0 | average score: MU 38, Opp 11)
- Average Percentile Performance (road): 36% (record: 3-3 | average score: MU 28, Opp 26)
James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong began as starting quarterback, but after throwing two picks in his first road start, a 21-10 dud of a road loss to Ohio, he was replaced by freshman Chase Litton, who might not give the job up for a while.
Devon Johnson got hurt, returned, and got hurt again, and the offense was never stable. Injuries crept up on the defense, too. The result was a volatile team on an endless search for consistency.
The Herd followed a narrow, lucky road win over Kent State with a dominant home win over a Southern Miss that was a lot better than we knew at the time. And after a tough overtime loss at MTSU (driven in part by sudden place-kicking issues), the Herd were almost perfect against an FIU that was in search of a bowl bid.
Technically the November 27 battle with WKU was a winner-take-all game in the C-USA East, but there was never any question who the best team in the conference was. The more seasoned Hilltoppers had the consistency Marshall never found -- they had an excellent senior QB, and MU had a freshman. But a bowl victory assured double-digit wins, which isn't an awful consolation.
There are still plenty of question marks, especially as they pertain to the run game and defensive depth. But at the moment, there is decent stability. And that will probably mean a smaller range between home and road performances.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.9%||48||Succ. Rt. +||99.0||78|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.0||14||Def. FP+||28.9||52|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.2||91||Redzone S&P+||97.1||89|
|Q1 Rk||68||1st Down Rk||96|
|Q2 Rk||42||2nd Down Rk||111|
|Q3 Rk||102||3rd Down Rk||52|
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Chase Litton||6'6, 207||So.||3 stars||0.8360||230||383||2605||23||8||60.1%||14||3.5%||6.3|
|Michael Birdsong||6'5, 241||Sr.||NR||43||82||365||2||4||52.4%||5||5.7%||3.8|
|Xavier Gaines||6'2, 208||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8708|
|Grant Morrell||6'3, 195||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8242|
3. A pretty good audition
To be sure, Litton had his freshman moments. After a nearly perfect first start against Norfolk State, he was 14-for-36 with two picks and produced only an 81.3 passer rating in the tight win over Kent State. And since improvement is never linear, he followed a great three-game stretch against Charlotte, MTSU, and FIU (65 percent completion rate, eight touchdowns, one pick) with another two-pick performance, against WKU (107.7).
Still, Litton was only months removed from attending Tampa Wharton High, and coaches already considered him a better option than Birdsong or 2014 backup Gunnar Holcombe (who has since transferred). Marshall lacked in the big-play department, but the Herd ranked 33rd in Success Rate+, and efficiency is often the last thing to come around for a young QB.
The ceiling for Litton is high. The question is whether Marshall approaches it this fall, or whether the personnel needs another year to gel. Litton had no reliable run game in 2015, and there's no guarantee that changes.
|Hyleck Foster||RB/SLOT||5'11, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8093||101||459||3||4.5||4.5||35.6%||3||2|
|Keion Davis||RB||6'1, 205||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8328||73||331||2||4.5||4.8||32.9%||0||0|
|Tony Pittman||RB||5'10, 203||Jr.||2 stars||0.7893||64||327||3||5.1||4.5||37.5%||1||1|
|Chase Litton||QB||6'6, 207||So.||3 stars||0.8360||34||138||0||4.1||2.7||41.2%||3||2|
|Michael Birdsong||QB||6'5, 241||Sr.||NR||NR||16||88||1||5.5||5.7||43.8%||2||2|
|Delvin Weems||RB||5'8, 185||RSFr.||3 stars||0.8467|
|JaQua Daniels||RB||6'1, 219||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8591|
|Cody Mitchell||FB||6'2, 212||Fr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8113|
4. Rebuilding the run game
Everything changed when Devon Johnson got hurt. Even in the loss to Ohio, he was fantastic, and through three games he had rushed 54 times for 381 yards (7.1) and three touchdowns. Over 13 games, that's a 1,600-yard pace.
But Clint Van Horn got hurt in the third game, and Johnson got hurt in the fourth, and things quickly changed. The team that had averaged 5.5 yards per carry overall through three games, averaged just 4.2 the rest of the way. Johnson returned against Southern Miss and FAU, then came back one more time in the bowl game. But aside from a 75-yard run on the first play of the FAU game, he otherwise rushed 34 times for just 128 yards the rest of the season, and the backup situation was fluid for all the wrong reasons. Backup Remi Watson was already hurt when Johnson went down, and freshman Keion Davis was inconsistent.
Desperation led to a position change. Receiver Hyleck Foster was having a disappointing season in the slot (though six games: 11 catches, 64 yards), but he provided a brief spark in the backfield, rushing 34 times for 227 yards against FAU and UNT. But he averaged 3.4 yards per carry the rest of the way, and Marshall finished with a No. 103 ranking in Rushing S&P+.
Does this change in 2016? There are no guarantees. Van Horn is pursuing a medical redshirt, and heaven only knows when he'll get an answer. Foster might or might not move back to receiver; in theory, that will depend on the progress of players like Davis and junior Tony Pittman, not to mention a pair of three-star youngsters: redshirt freshman Delvin Weems and true freshmen JaQua Daniels.
One figures that if there are a couple of options in that group, Foster ends up back in the slot. Or maybe the coaches have determined he's better in the backfield.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Deon-Tay McManus||WR-Z||6'1, 228||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8950||77||35||334||45.5%||17.1%||4.3||49.4%||35.1%||1.13|
|Ryan Yurachek||TE||6'3, 233||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7626||54||44||417||81.5%||12.0%||7.7||70.4%||64.8%||1.15|
|Justin Hunt||WR-X||6'3, 203||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7967||37||20||295||54.1%||8.2%||8.0||64.9%||51.4%||1.53|
|Hyleck Foster||RB/SLOT||5'11, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8093||26||17||96||65.4%||5.8%||3.7||73.1%||30.8%||0.99|
|Emanuel Byrd||TE||6'3, 229||Sr.||3 stars||NR||25||19||214||76.0%||5.6%||8.6||68.0%||56.0%||1.42|
|Nick Mathews||SLOT||5'10, 168||So.||NR||NR||8||4||29||50.0%||1.8%||3.6||37.5%||37.5%||0.87|
|Josh Knight||WR-Z||6'1, 193||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7859||7||3||44||42.9%||1.6%||6.3||57.1%||42.9%||1.44|
|Raylen Elzy||WR||6'4, 203||So.||3 stars||0.7913||6||2||8||33.3%||1.3%||1.3||50.0%||16.7%||0.76|
|Keion Davis||RB||6'1, 205||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8328||5||3||15||60.0%||1.1%||3.0||20.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Tony Pittman||RB||5'10, 203||Jr.||2 stars||0.7893||3||2||14||66.7%||0.7%||4.7||66.7%||33.3%||1.11|
|Donquell Green||WR||5'8, 170||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8235|
|Kaleb Harris||TE||6'3, 223||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7900|
|Pro Wells||TE||6'5, 210||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8667|
|Willie Johnson||WR||6'0, 170||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8093|
5. Who do the big plays come from?
If the run game stabilizes a bit, then Marshall can begin to address the next issue on the list. The passing game was pretty efficient, with Litton balancing passes to tight end Ryan Yurachek and slot receiver Deandre Reaves (combined catch rate: 73 percent) with more risky shots at wideouts Davonte Allen and Deon-Tay McManus. But while Allen's and McManus' combined 52 percent catch rate would have been fine if they were averaging 15 to 20 yards per catch, they averaged only 11.3. Justin Hunt was the closest thing to a big-play guy in the receiving corps, but he caught only 20 passes.
Despite pass-first tendencies, Marshall ended up with only 37 passes of 20-plus yards (72nd in FBS) and four of 40-plus (103rd). Litton is good in the quick-passing game, which helps to keep the pass rush at bay, but if receivers aren't occasionally breaking short passes for long gains, and if the run game isn't very efficient, then you have to execute well for eight or 10 plays at a time to score. And as Marshall's averages in scoring opportunities suggest (4.2 points per opportunity, 91st), the Herd weren't very good at that ... in part because they couldn't run the ball. A vicious circle, that.
Just one to two more big passes per game could drastically change expectations for Marshall in 2016. But who might they come from? Is Hunt ready for a larger role? Fellow senior Josh Knight? Sophomore Raylen Elzy?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Sebastian Johansson||LG||13||38||2015 1st All-CUSA|
|Michael Selby||C||6'2, 283||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8414||13||27||2015 2nd All-CUSA|
|Clint Van Horn||RT||6'5, 314||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||3||25||2014 1st All-CUSA|
|Sandley Jean-Felix||LT||6'5, 317||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8345||13||13|
|Jordan Dowrey||RG||6'1, 297||So.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7755||12||12|
|AJ Addison||RT||6'6, 290||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.8700||7||7|
|Nate Devers||RG||6'3, 282||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8665||1||1|
|Fedrice Binot||RG||6'4, 280||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||1||1|
|Cody Collins||C||6'1, 275||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7804||0||0|
|Levi Brown||OL||6'4, 275||RSFr.||2 stars||0.8348|
|Alex Salguero||OL||6'3, 310||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8400|
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||37.7%||27||Succ. Rt. +||96.2||77|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||33.4||6||Off. FP+||30.7||49|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||3.2||1||Redzone S&P+||108.0||34|
|Q1 Rk||85||1st Down Rk||53|
|Q2 Rk||37||2nd Down Rk||31|
|Q3 Rk||52||3rd Down Rk||74|
6. Scoring TDs on Marshall was hard
In 2014, with a fantastic pass defense and far more experience, Marshall fit a bend-don't-break profile of sorts. The Herd ranked 55th in Def. Success Rate+ and 22nd in IsoPPP+. They were spectacular on passing downs (sixth) and held opponents to four points per scoring opportunity (30th).
With turnover across the board -- they lost their top three linemen, three of four linebackers, and two of four defensive backs -- the Herd pulled off something improbable in 2015: they improved defensively, from 50th to 36th in Def. S&P+.
The bend-don't-break profile held, but while the defense got a little bit worse on a per-play bases, it made up for it by allowing a paltry 3.2 points per scoring opportunity, the lowest average in the country. You can get away with inefficiency if you're keeping points off of the board, and Marshall's defense was as good in the red zone as the offense was shaky.
With three of the top four linemen back, along with two solid contributors at linebacker (plus some star recruits joining the fold), the front seven could again be stury enough to stiffen with points on the line. But Marshall could do itself some favors by allowing fewer opportunities, and there's just enough turnover to wonder if that's likely.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Gary Thompson||DE||6'1, 252||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7700||13||44.0||5.7%||12.5||9.0||0||4||5||0|
|Ryan Bee||DE||6'7, 263||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7783||12||37.0||4.8%||8.5||4.0||0||2||0||0|
|Blake Keller||DE||6'2, 234||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8143||13||25.5||3.3%||5.5||0.5||0||0||1||0|
|Nyquan Harris||DT||6'2, 293||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8274||13||15.5||2.0%||1.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joe Massaquoi||DE||6'5, 251||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||11||13.5||1.8%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jason Smith||DT||6'3, 296||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7593||11||7.0||0.9%||2.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Tomell One||NT||6'3, 275||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8148||6||3.0||0.4%||1.0||1.0||0||0||1||0|
|Malik Thompson||DE||6'6, 251||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.7778|
|Ty Tyler||DE||6'3, 248||RSFr.||2 stars||0.8371|
|Damien Dozier||DE||6'4, 207||RSFr.||2 stars||0.8296|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Devontre'a Tyler||MLB||6'2, 240||Sr.||3 stars||0.7900||13||35.5||4.6%||2.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Shawn Petty||MLB||6'2, 241||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7923||9||24.0||3.1%||4.5||1.5||0||4||1||0|
|Raheim Huskey||MLB||6'2, 211||Jr.||NR||NR||7||15.5||2.0%||2.5||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Chase Hancock||SLB||6'2, 207||So.||NR||NR||13||11.5||1.5%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Frankie Hernandez||WLB||6'2, 201||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8333||13||10.5||1.4%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Marquis Couch||LB||6'2, 209||RSFr.||3 stars||0.8086|
|Davon Durant||LB||6'2, 233||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9256|
|Doyle Grimes||LB||6'1, 210||RSFr.||2 stars||0.8160|
|Jaquan Yulee||LB||6'1, 246||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9250|
|Omari Cobb||LB||6'4, 200||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8123|
7. Got depth?
I engaged in artful wording above. Yes, three of the top four tacklers on the line return; but all three are defensive ends. And while the return of ends Gary Thompson, Ryan Bee, and Blake Keller (combined: 26.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks) should ensure a nice, attacking presence on passing downs -- don't be surprised if a top-50 pass rush turns into a top-30 pass rush -- the top three tackles are gone. Three returning tackles did combine for 25.5 tackles, five for loss, and sophomore Jason Smith showed hints of play-making potential. But Smith, fellow sophomore Nyquan Harris, and junior Tomell One must all be ready to play major roles in 2016 because if they aren't, I'm not sure who will be.
This is how you develop depth issues. Of this trio, at least one guy will probably turn out well, maybe two. But you tend to need more guys than that. And if someone gets hurt?
In a way, it's the same story at linebacker. Devontre'a Tyler, Shawn Petty, and Raheim Huskey return after combining for 9.5 TFLs a year ago, but the loss of Evan McKelvey and D.J. Hunter means that all three have to be stellar. [Update: Huskey was dismissed from the program in July.] And two four-stars -- JUCO transfer Davon Durant and freshman Jaquan Yulee -- will have to prove their potential pretty quickly.
The first string for Marshall's front seven should be strong. But the second string is a complete unknown. That means you're one or two injuries from pretty significant regression.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Tiquan Lang||S||5'8, 170||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7943||11||65.5||8.5%||1||0||2||6||0||0|
|Antavis Rowe||NB||5'11, 167||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||13||32.5||4.2%||2.5||0||1||6||1||0|
|Kendall Gant||S||6'3, 198||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8995||13||29.5||3.8%||0||0||2||1||0||0|
|Rodney Allen||CB||5'11, 180||Jr.||NR||NR||13||24.0||3.1%||1||0||3||3||0||1|
|Cody Carter||CB||5'10, 178||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||11||9.0||1.2%||0||0||0||0||1||0|
|Corey Neely||S||6'1, 177||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||NR||9||3.5||0.5%||0.5||0||0||1||0||0|
|T.J. Griffin||CB||5'9, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8385||6||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Michael Johnson||DB||5'9, 170||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8672|
|D'Andre Wilson||DB||5'10, 167||Jr.||NR||0.8538|
|Chris Williams-Hall||DB||6'0, 186||So.||NR||NR|
|C.J. Reavis||S||6'1, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8322|
|Sir Patrick Scott||DB||6'1, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8569|
|Jaylon McClain-Sapp||DB||5'11, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7793|
|Christopher Jackson||S||6'0, 160||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7726|
|Jeremiah Maddox||S||6'0, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8251|
|Jestin Morrow||DB||5'10, 160||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8183|
8. Got play-makers?
Despite losing Taj Letman, the safety position appears well-stocked with Tiquan Lang, Kendall Gant, and a proven nickel in Antavis Rowe. But losing Corey Tindal hurts. Tindal was a dynamite play-maker, defensing 15 passes and sacking the quarterback three times.
Perhaps Rowe could be used in the same way, and Rodney Allen looks solid at the other corner spot, but the secondary was a source of havoc, and Tindal was the strongest havoc-bringer. This will still be one of the best defenses in C-USA, but depth and attacking options could tamp the ceiling down a bit.
|Amoreto Curraj||6'2, 213||Jr.||76||62.6||45||4||59.2%|
|Nick Smith||5'10, 175||Jr.||48-48||17-20||85.0%||1-5||20.0%|
|Amoreto Curraj||6'2, 213||Jr.||1-1||0-2||0.0%||0-0||N/A|
|Hyleck Foster||PR||5'11, 185||Jr.||9||4.1||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||26|
|Field Goal Efficiency||90|
|Punt Return Success Rate||2|
|Kick Return Success Rate||8|
|Punt Success Rate||23|
|Kickoff Success Rate||12|
Nick Smith went full-on #CollegeKickers for a little bit. He made his first nine kicks of the year, but after missing a couple against Charlotte, he lost the plot against MTSU. He missed three of four kicks, including a 42-yarder with 4:32 left and a 32-yarder at the end of regulation. In overtime, Doc Holliday sent in kickoffs guy Amoreto Curraj, who promptly missed a 38-yarder and had a 39-yarder blocked.
When Smith made a short field goal at the halftime buzzer of Marshall's easy win over FIU the next week, it had to feel all sorts of cathartic. He went 4-for-6 to finish the season, and slump aside, he appears to at least be a reliable option inside of 40 yards.
His improvement will be vital to Marshall retaining a strong overall special teams rating. Spectacular return man Deandre Reaves must now be replaced, and punter Tyler Williams is gone, too. Curraj was a touchback machine on kickoffs, but it's hard to imagine the Herd staying in the special teams top 30 unless Smith has his head on straight and a new return man is found. No guarantees there.
2016 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|8-Oct||at North Texas||128||14.8||80%|
|29-Oct||at Southern Miss||72||-3.9||41%|
|5-Nov||at Old Dominion||111||8.6||69%|
|19-Nov||at Florida International||113||9.5||71%|
|Projected wins: 7.6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||4.1% (53)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||75 / 72|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||4 / 3.6|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||+0.1|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||62% (72%, 53%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||9.0 (1.0)|
10. A test of the streak
The offense could be great or could get dragged down again by a faulty running game. The defense could be great or could get dragged down by depth issues and one fewer play-maker. Turnover in the return and punting games might lead to regression.
When you recruit as well as Marshall does, and when you field higher-caliber athletes than your brethren at most positions, that means your floor is higher than everybody else's.
The ceiling has yet to be determined, at least for 2016. And the schedule could result in a wide variety of outcomes. The strong power-conference opponents that were missing from the 2014 schedule show up this fall -- Louisville comes to Huntington in Week 4, then Marshall visits Pitt in Week 5. Plus, the two conference foes that took the Herd down last year must come to Marshall in November.
The opportunity for big wins is high, but if the Herd aren't any better on the road, then trips to Southern Miss and perhaps ODU or FIU could be scary. Another 10-win season is conceivable, but so is a five-loss setback. In that regard, a 7.6-win projection sounds about right.
This is a team destined to improve in 2017, but it's hard to know what the Herd are capable of in 2016. One thing's certain, though: if the streak of 10-win seasons continues this year, it will almost definitely continue next year, too.