Ohio will try to win a bowl game for the first time in its history (0-3) when it faces Marshall in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. Formerly called the Motor City Bowl for the first 12 years of its existence, the new title sponsor and name change were announced in September.
Despite having campuses that are less than 90 miles apart, these teams have not met since Marshall left the MAC after the 2004 season to join CUSA. Ohio leads the series 29-17-6, but Marshall won the last four meetings. 2010 will mark a renewal of the rivalry during the regular season.
The Herd dominated the MAC during its brief stay, capturing the conference title five times in its 8-year league history. Marshall won four straight conference titles during its first four years of MAC membership, lost the title game in its fifth year, and recaptured the crown in its sixth. The Herd played in each of the Motor City Bowl's first four games and won the last three after dropping the first.
Ohio is making its first appearance in the Detroit bowl, but is playing its second consecutive game at Ford Field. The Bobcats lost 20-10 to Central Michigan in the MAC Championship game that was played here on December 4. Had Ohio won that game, it would have secured its first MAC title since 1968, and its first 10-win season since that same year. Ohio also lost here to Central Michigan in the 2006 MAC title game.
Ohio (9-4) appears to have the statistical advantage over Marshall (6-6). The Bobcats have allowed less yardage on defense (355 to 392.5) and fewer points (21.3 to 24.9). And though the Herd has averaged more yardage on offense (355.3 to 326), it has scored fewer points (21.8 to 25.4).
Ohio also owns the nation's 6th-best turnover margin at plus-14, compared to Marshall at minus-5. Bobcat FS Gerald Moore had 6 interceptions this season to rank 7th nationally while Herd QB Brian Anderson enters the game with a 14-13 TD-INT ratio.
The head coaching situation could also prove favorable to Ohio.
Marshall fired head coach Mark Snyder immediately after the team returned from an embarrassing 52-21 loss at UTEP (4-8) in the final regular season game. Defensive coordinator Rick Minter will serve as interim head coach. Ironically, Minter was Cincinnati's head coach when Marshall beat the Bearcats 25-14 in the 2000 Motor City Bowl. Minter spent 10 seasons at Cincinnati in his only head coaching job and compiled a record of 53-63-1 overall, 1-3 in bowl games.
Frank Solich is 32-30 in 6 seasons at Ohio after going 58-19 in 6 seasons at Nebraska. He is 3-4 alltime in bowl games, including 0-1 with Ohio - a 28-7 GMAC Bowl loss to Southern Miss to end the 2006 campaign.
The Congrove Computer Rankings place Marshall's strength of schedule at No. 84 and Ohio's at No. 106. However, the Herd was stampeded by a combined 76-17 in its two toughest games at Virginia Tech (52-10) and West Virginia (24-7). Ohio's toughest games resulted in a 34-23 loss at Tennessee and a 23-16 home defeat to UConn in the season opener. The Bobcats thumped Temple 35-17 in the final regular season game to end the Owls' 9-game winning streak and claim the MAC East title.
The Bobcats are led by wide receiver Taylor Price, their all-time leader in career catches with 145. LaVon Brazill had 50 receptions and returned 3 punts for touchdowns. RB Chris Garrett is the leading ground-gainer with just 591 yards, but was 6th in the MAC in all-purpose yards with 121.4 per game and had 1 kickoff return for a score.
Marshall's top running back, Darius Marshall, missed the last two regular season games with a sprained ankle but is expected to be healthy and ready for the bowl game. He had 1,054 yards and 11 TD's in less than 9 games. He missed the first game due to suspension for a marijuana possession charge and was injured in the third quarter of game 10 against Southern Miss.
Marshall tight end Cody Slate, a Mackey Award finalist, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Southern Miss game. Freshman WR Antavious Wilson averaged 112 yards and almost 9 receptions in the last three games of the season.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPN beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET on December 26.