No. 18 Marshall faces UAB, trying to stay perfect
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Marshall is fighting to earn its way into a New Year's Day bowl. UAB is just trying to become eligible for any bowl while waiting to learn the program's uncertain fate.
The 18th-ranked Thundering Herd (10-0, 6-0 Conference USA) enter Saturday's game at Legion Field looking to make another good impression on the College Football Playoff committee. The panel will choose the best team from among the schools outside the Big Five conferences for a prominent bowl, but hasn't heard or seen enough to place any in its Top 25.
''I could care less if they're listening, to be honest,'' Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. ''We'll just keep doing what we're doing. We can only worry about what we can control. And sooner or later, you just keep winning, they'll have no choice but to recognize us. That's what we have to do.
''We just have to keep winning, keep playing well, and the end of the day we'll look up and see where we are. But I think we'll like what we see if we keep taking care of business.''
The Thundering Herd are 20-point favorites over the Blazers (5-5, 3-3), who need to win one of their final two games to become bowl eligible.
They've been battling a potentially major distraction with the university exploring dropping the program, whose only bowl trip came in 2004.
Clark has tried to keep his team's focus on shooting for win No. 6 - and maybe No. 7.
''We know what one win means to us, but we need to play for both of them,'' he said. ''We understand how good the team we are playing this week really is and what kind of challenge that is. But getting to be at home, with the seniors' last game at Legion Field, we should be inspired.
''It is just another opportunity for us. You work so hard for these very few opportunities and we should be ready.''
The Blazers are coming off an open date after losing 40-24 to C-USA West Division leader Louisiana Tech, which will probably face Marshall in the league championship game. Now they play the league's top team, which has won its games by an average of 30.8 points. That's the nation's highest scoring margin.
Here are some things to watch in the Marshall-UAB game:
RUNNING ROCKHEAD: Marshall running back Devon Johnson, nicknamed Rockhead, has run for a school-record 272 yards and 199 yards in his last two games. The junior converted from tight end before the season began and has eight 100-yard rushing efforts. He's fourth in the Bowl Subdivision with 1,402 rushing yards and has run for 16 touchdowns.
CATO CAN: Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato is looking to push his FBS-record streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 43. Cato leads the league in passing efficiency.
BIG-PLAY THREATS: Johnson has produced six runs of 50-plus yards for Marshall, which collectively leads the nation with eight rushes of 60 or more yards. UAB counters with one of the nation's most dangerous return men. J.J. Nelson has returned three kicks for touchdowns this season, which also leads the nation. Of his 25 career touchdowns, 18 have come on plays of at least 40 yards.
DEFENSIVE TEST: UAB's defense has made big strides after being among the nation's worst last season, but the Blazers face a huge test. Marshall is second nationally in total offense (567.2 yards per game) and scoring offense (47.1 points per game).
UAB SENIORS: This is the final home game for 18 UAB seniors, who will be recognized before the game. Those who have been around since their freshman seasons are on their third head coach.