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Marshall, Miami to decide East crown

From Staff Reports

Marshall's experience and success in big games could be offset by a large, partisan crowd.

The Thundering Herd are riding the arm of arguably the nation's hottest quarterback, but Miami (Ohio) has the young gun of the Mid-American Conference.

The matchup essentially is a pick 'em, but one thing's for certain -- the winner of today's Marshall-Miami showdown is the MAC East Division champion and guaranteed a berth in either the Motor City or GMAC Bowl. The loser will have to wait a few weeks to learn its postseason fate.

Kickoff at Yager Stadium in Oxford (Ohio) is set for noon and will be televised by FOX Sports Pittsburgh.

Both the Thundering Herd (7-1, 4-0) and RedHawks (7-2, 4-0) are riding seven-game winning streaks. Each team has a MAC East game left, but a win today would seal the title due to tiebreakers.

An improved running game and strong offensive line play have allowed Marshall junior quarterback Byron Leftwich to enjoy three 400-yard passing games in the past four weeks. In last week's 42-21 victory at Kent State, Leftwich threw for 333 yards.

Leftwich ranks third in the nation in both quarterback rating (167.8) and passing yards (2,809). He's completed 66.6 percent of his passes and has 25 touchdowns to six interceptions, but was left off the list of 12 semifinalists for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award.

ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. was among those surprised by the omission, saying the best quarterback, Leftwich, was left off the list on a radio talk show earlier this week.

Redshirt freshman Ben Roethlisberger, meanwhile, already has set new MAC freshman standards with 2,205 yards and 21 touchdowns. He's averaging 245 passing yards and boasts a quarterback rating of 151.0.

Since defeating Marshall at Oxford in 1997, Miami has lost the last three games in the series by a 114-62. Marshall won last year's matchup, 51-31, in the highest-scoring game in the teams' 37 meetings.

n GLENVILLE SEEKS OUTRIGHT TITLE: Glenville State, picked to finish sixth in the West Virginia Conference, can clinch its first outright league championship since 1993 today with a victory over surging West Virginia Wesleyan.

Kickoff at Glenville State's Morris Stadium is 1 p.m.

Glenville State (5-3, 5-1) earned a share of the WVC title in 1994-97. The Pioneers then endured having three head coaches in four seasons before Paul Shaffner brought stability.

In just his second season, Shaffner has the Pioneers on the verge of an unlikely championship season.

Just as unlikely has been the recent run of Wesleyan (3-5, 3-3). In the past two weeks, the Bobcats have knocked the first-place team (first Shepherd and then WVU-Tech) from the WVC standings.

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