HUNTINGTON, West Virginia (Ticker) -- No. 22 Marshall, a one-time Division I-AA power, faces a top team from that division on Saturday when it hosts Appalachian State in the season opener for both teams.
Saturday's game will serve as a tuneup for Marshall's Byron Leftwich, who threw for 4,132 yards and 38 touchdowns last season and is expected to make a run at the Heisman Trophy this season.
Leftwich will throw to a talented receiving corps that includes the trio of Darius Watts, Denero Marriott and Josh Davis.
Watts had a huge season in 2001 with 91 catches for 1,417 yards and 18 scores.
Marshall was 11-2 a year ago, but must improve a defense that ranked 106th in the nation against the run (217.8 yards per game) and gave up an average of 25.7 points last season.
This will be the only game for Marshall before its meeting with Virginia Tech on September 12. The Thundering Herd are considered an outside contender for a BCS berth, but they will need to get by the Hokies and go undefeated to have a shot.
Appalachian State, a member of the Southern Conference, is ranked second in the preseason ESPN/USA Today Division I-AA poll. The Moutaineers are led by senior quarterback Joe Burchette, who has 35 career TD passes.
Appalachian State leads the series, 14-7, but the teams have not met since a 24-10 Marshall win in 1996 when both schools were in Division I-AA.