One sentence should add a little bit of sunshine to Marshall football fans' summer.
"Add it all up and MU gets the elite designation of my #1 Most Improved Team in the country."
That came from noted college football prognosticator Phil Steele, a man who crunches numbers like an accountant with a Red Bull IV drip to determine which are the top teams entering each season. And he ranks the Thundering Herd as the Football Bowl Subdivision's No. 38 team going into this fall.
That's the Marshall team that finished 5-7 and out of bowl contention in 2012 and whose defense was among the nation's worst. And that's a heck of a leap in perception.
So what's led a team that stayed home for the holidays last year to become, just based on these numbers, one of the front-runners for the Conference USA title? Take a look at some more of Steele's preseason honors.
The Herd has 16 players on Steele's four preseason all-C-USA teams, including seven on the first team. And that includes two on defense - defensive end Jeremiah Taylor and safety D.J. Hunter. If you include kickers, punters and returners, there are 24 starters on every football team. Marshall has all but eight of its starters on one of these teams.
But here's the thing about grading on potential: You still have to live up to it.
There were a number of teams on Steele's 2012 chart that didn't. He had Alabama ranked fifth and Oregon ranked sixth going into last season, and he wasn't too far off there. The Crimson Tide won the BCS title and the Ducks finished right behind in the Associated Press poll at No. 2. But what of his preseason No. 1, Florida State?
With a team stocked with NFL draft picks, the Seminoles suffered what's becoming its yearly tradition of a head-scratching midseason loss to an inferior opponent, that time North Carolina State. Still, FSU won the ACC title and finished a respectable 10th in the AP poll, but it had to settle with running away from Mid-American Conference champ Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl.