Marshall coach Doc Holliday likes all that he is hearing about his Thundering Herd in Conference USA.

"People are talking about us the way we want to be talked about," said Holliday, whose team is the overwhelming C-USA favorite this season. "We have embraced those expectations as players and coaches, but we also understand that along with those expectations come responsibility."

C-USA PRESEASON COACHES' POLL

Rank East Division   West Division
1. Marshall   North Texas
2. Middle Tennessee   Rice
3. Florida Atlantic   UTSA
4. Western Kentucky   Louisiana Tech
5. Old Dominion   Southern Mississippi
6. UAB   UTEP
7. FIU    
Especially in the new College Football Playoff. The highest-ranked team from the five mid-major leagues is guaranteed a spot in one of the CFP's six bowl games with teams from the five power conferences.

"We've got a seat at the table if we just take care of business," Holliday said.

Marshall is led by quarterback Rakeem Cato and defensive lineman James Rouse, the C-USA preseason players of the year.

Cato has 10,176 yards passing in his career, with touchdowns in 32 consecutive games -- and he worked this offseason to improve his deep throws. Rouse is one of eight returning starters on a defense that drastically improved last season, when Marshall won 10 games and the C-USA East title but lost at Rice in the league championship game.

"I'm just working hard," Cato said. "I'm just finding new ways to get myself better and get everybody around me on the same page I'm on."

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