Chuck Landon: MU faces challenging schedule for 2010
At first glance, Marshall's 2010 football schedule resembles the batting order for the 1927 New York Yankees.
It's a Murderer's Row.
I mean, is there another NCAA school whose schedule begins with seven -- count 'em, seven -- consecutive opponents that participated in bowl games last season?
But after further examination, the Herd's 2010 slate isn't quite like facing Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri and Joe Dugan in a row.
Sure, Marshall's first seven opponents all advanced to post-season. But six of the seven lost their bowl game.
That kind of takes the manslaughter out of the Murderer's Row.
The only opponent that won its bowl game was opening-season foe Ohio State, which defeated Oregon, 26-17, in the Rose Bowl.
But the rest of the first seven?
West Virginia University lost to Florida State, 33-21, in the Gator Bowl.
Bowling Green fell to Idaho, 43-42, in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Ohio lost to Marshall, 21-17, in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Southern Miss was defeated by Middle Tennessee State, 42-32, in the New Orleans Bowl.
UCF was hammered, 45-24, by Rutgers in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
East Carolina lost to Arkansas, 20-17, in the Liberty Bowl.
So, yes, they reached post-season. But they didn't do much once they got there.
Yet, it's still a formidable schedule for a first-year, first-time head coach such as Marshall's Doc Holliday.
"I just think having the opportunity to open up the season with seven opponents that went to bowl games last season," said Holliday, "there needs to be a sense of urgency around this office, this campus and this university.
"We can't afford to take one day off or we're not going to be prepared to meet the challenge."
The simple truth is despite six of the seven opponents losing their bowl games, it still significantly raises this schedule's degree of difficulty.
"I knew going in that we had eight bowl teams from a year ago on our schedule," said Holliday, referring to SMU, which beat Nevada, 45-10, in the Hawaii Bowl, as the eighth foe. "So, that wasn't a hidden agenda. We knew that.
"But that being said, we didn't realize we'd end up getting the first seven back-to-back-to-back. But that's OK."
It's OK because Holliday thrives on challenges. And that's what this schedule is. ... a great challenge.
"Sure it is," said Holliday. "I don't think there's any other way to look at it. That's the way it is. We're excited about it and our players are excited about it. We just have a lot of work to do to meet the challenge we've got ahead of us."
That's because Marshall's schedule doesn't include any early-season cream puffs like most teams play.
"No, there isn't any," said Holliday. "Our preparation from now until August hasn't changed, but we just have to make sure that not a day goes by that whether it's in the weight room or the class room or on the spring practice field that we're not preparing to become a better football team.
"We can't afford not to take advantage of every day we've got."
That's because this schedule isn't set up for eight or nine victories like the 2009 slate was. This schedule is setup for about six wins.
The good news is that's enough to get Marshall into a bowl game.
Just ask the first seven foes.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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