Consistent Tulsa back in familiar place: first
Since Marshall joined Conference USA in 2005, the Thundering Herd has longed to be considered one of the conference's best football teams.
It hasn't happened to this point.
On the other hand, Tulsa is a team that consistently has been in that upper echelon and a team that everyone has envied.
This weekend, Marshall gets its chance to gun for the Golden Hurricane as Tulsa comes into Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. Homecoming matchup televised by the CBS Sports Network (Ch. 174 in Huntington).
Tulsa is once again considered the cream of C-USA's crop in 2012, being projected as one of the two top teams in the conference.
So, how has Tulsa stayed on top of the league over the past eight seasons? Consistency and balance.
The Golden Hurricane have been one of the top defensive teams while maintaining a balanced offense as well during that period.
In C-USA, many teams have incredible offensive numbers, but in looking at many of the champions, it has been the defensive-minded team that has often won the championship at season's end.
It's an aspect that Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said typifies any champion -- the total package.
"At the end of the day, I think you'll find out the teams that are playing great defense will be playing, whether it's the conference championships or the national championship," Holliday said.
In addition to the defense, Tulsa is also leading the conference in rushing while maintaining a sound passing game behind quarterback Cody Green.
And they do it in a variety of ways.
Tulsa loves to throw screens and create mismatches on the outside with big bodies and they have a pair of fast, explosive running backs (Trey Watts, Ja'Terian Douglas) that force a defense to chase them. There is also 260-pound bruising running back Alex Singleton who gets featured late in the game to essentially come in as the closer.
Tulsa has speed and size, they can play fast or they can grind and they can beat you on the ground or through the air.
Tulsa is a complete package, and it will take a complete effort to get past them.
That's why many teams can't.
CHAPMAN RETURNS: Former Marshall running back Doug Chapman will serve as the color analyst for the CBS Sports Network on Saturday's game.
Chapman was at Marshall from 1996-99 and led the Herd in rushing for three consecutive years. He is still second all-time on the Marshall career rushing list with 4,016 yards. He was part of the NCAA Division I-AA National Championship team in 1996 while also appearing in three bowl games and winning two of them.
He was part of Marshall's greatest team ever in 1999 that finished 13-0 following a 21-3 win over No. 25 BYU in the Motor City Bowl. That team finished the 1999 season ranked No. 10 in the nation.
In that BYU contest, Chapman accounted for all three touchdowns. He rushed for 133 yards on 14 carries and two scores, including an 87-yard burst. He also had a 30-yard catch on a screen pass for a score.
Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).