In perhaps one of the more underrated bowl matchups of the 2014 slate, Marshall will square off with Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 23.
Each team boasts a conference title and the Thundering Herd (12-1) were in the conversation as the best team among the Group of 5 conferences for much of the season. Northern Illinois (11-2) made a late-season push into that discussion by winning seven straight.
Marshall appeared to slump a bit toward season's end after blowing out its first nine opponents. On Nov. 22, it escaped UAB with a 23-18 win, and that performance seemed to foreshadow the next week a 67-66, overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky.
The Herd still rebounded the following week by winning the Conference USA title, but it needed a late-game interception to preserve a 26-23 win.
"I tell you, I can't say enough how proud I am of the coaching staff, how proud I am of this team," coach Doc Holliday said. "They overcame a lot out there. I have never been associated with a team that overcame so much adversity as what we did during that game and we found a way to win. It's a special bunch."
Marshall is led by senior Rakeem Cato, one of the greatest quarterbacks in program history. Running back Devon Johnson and wide receiver Tommy Shuler are big-time weapons who have helped Marshall put points on the board all season.
Marshall also put together the best defense in Conference USA with a group of talented upperclassmen led by linebacker Neville Hewitt. The Herd has 22 takeaways in 2014.
"We had a bad game (against WKU), but we've been a good defense all year," Hewitt said after the conference title game. "We just had to go out there and show that we are still a great defense."
Northern Illinois received votes in both Top 25 polls to end the year and walloped Bowling Green 51-17 in the Mid-American Conference title game. Cameron Stingily and Drew Hare each finished the season with more than 800 yards rushing, and Hare threw for 2,097 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Huskies average 32.2 points per game, which would seem to indicate an offensive shootout in South Florida.