Herd's football schedule unveiled
HUNTINGTON -- It's only the first week of February, but already the talk is centered around Marshall University's football program.
Conference USA unveiled its 2014 season schedules Monday, kicking off a week that also includes National Signing Day on Wednesday.
For the Thundering Herd, the highlight to the 2014 schedule is a rematch of the 2013 C-USA championship game with Rice. The Owls, who defeated the Herd 41-24 in 2013, venture to Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Nov. 15 for a late-season showdown.
That contest also comes one day after the 1970 Marshall plane crash anniversary, making for an important weekend for the Herd.
Marshall will play six home games, including two non-conference games.
Unlike last season when the Herd had groups of two weeks for home games and away contests in conference play, the 2014 schedule alternates with road and home contests for all eight weeks.
"The way it lays out, alternating between home and road games, is a plus," Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said. "It's good for our team and our fans. Our home schedule is filled with teams that are projected to be among the best in C-USA, along with the Herd."
Marshall's season opens with four weeks of non-conference play, starting with an Aug. 30 trip to Oxford, Ohio, to take on Miami (Ohio).
That contest is followed by a pair of consecutive home games with FCS opponent Rhode Island (Sept. 6) and the "Battle for the Bell" with Ohio on Sept. 13. The Herd closes its non-conference schedule with a trip to Akron (Sept. 20).
Following a bye week, the Herd begins conference play on the road Oct. 4 against Old Dominion, which will be playing in its first season of C-USA football.
The Herd's first conference home game will bring Middle Tennessee -- the only conference team to beat Marshall in the regular season in 2013 -- to Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Oct. 11.
C-USA's Florida contingent follows in the next two weeks with the Herd traveling to FIU on Oct. 18 before FAU comes to Huntington Oct. 25.
After the Herd's second bye week, Marshall travels to Hattiesburg, Miss., on Nov. 8 to take on Southern Miss, who is moving from the East Division to the West Division. That game precedes the battle with Rice.
Following the Rice contest, the Herd closes out its regular season road slate with a Nov. 22 contest at UAB.
Marshall will once again host a day-after-Thanksgiving Friday contest at Joan C. Edwards Stadium when new C-USA member Western Kentucky comes to Huntington on Nov. 28.
Marshall coach Doc Holliday likes many of the aspects of the 2014 schedule.
In addition to the Herd alternating home and road games in conference play, Marshall also benefited from a symmetry that essentially breaks down the season into thirds. The team will play four games and then have a bye week on two separate occasions.
"Like last year, we have a bye week between our four non-league games and our Conference USA opener," Holliday said. "Then halfway through conference play, we have another bye, which balances the schedule."
The home portion of the schedule features five opponents who ended 2013 with six wins or more. Ohio, Middle Tennessee and Rice all went to bowl games while FAU and Western Kentucky were bowl eligible but not invited to a bowl.
"Rice, Middle Tennessee and Ohio were in bowls last year and Western Kentucky won eight and should have been in a bowl," Holliday said.
Marshall's road schedule is also favorable for Holliday and his staff in terms of recruiting. The Herd has been a fixture in the Tidewater district of Virginia and in South Florida, and the Herd coaching staff will make visits to each place this season with the Old Dominion and FIU contests.
The contest at Southern Miss can also prove beneficial because of the strength of the surrounding junior college programs within an hour of Hattiesburg, Miss.
Times have not been announced for the contests and dates are subject to change because of television opportunities.
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