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Chuck Landon: Herd left watching bad teams play bowls

Dec. 04, 2012 @ 12:40 AM

Marshall's name should have been called Sunday.

When the 34 bowls announced the 68 college football programs that were being invited to play in their respective games, the Herd should have been on the list.

Instead, Marshall was among the 52 who weren't.

That means Marshall wasn't even in the top half of Football Bowl Subdivision's 120 members.

That is inexcusable.

Just look at who is going bowling while Marshall is still trying to reset the pins.

A Tulsa squad that Marshall could have and probably should have beaten in Edwards Stadium this season is in the Liberty Bowl.

A Purdue team that the Herd threw a late scare into is in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

An Ohio squad, which Marshall should have beaten at Edwards Stadium in what turned out to be the linch-pin to the entire season, is in the Independence Bowl.

An East Carolina team that Marshall extended to double overtime and easily could have beaten in Greenville, N.C., is in the New Orleans Bowl.

A UCF program that once was frustrated because it couldn't beat the Herd is in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

n A Rice team that Marshall actually defeated, 54-51 in double overtime, in Houston is going to the Armed Forces Bowl.

The latter really sticks in your craw, doesn't it?

Then, there are the bowl-bound programs Marshall once beat on a regular basis. Schools like Toledo (Idaho Bowl), Ball State (Beef O'Brady's) Central Michigan (Little Caesars), Bowling Green (Military Bowl), Kent State (GoDaddy.com) and Northern Illinois (Orange Bowl).

That list is rather galling as well.

When all those schools are going to bowl games and Marshall isn't, there's something wrong.

Very wrong.

Particularly, considering the circumstances.

Marshall went to a bowl game in 2011, beating Florida International in the Beef O'Brady's. That should have set the stage for a very successful 2012 season.

After all, Marshall had more returning regulars than any other school in Conference USA. Besides that, C-USA clearly appeared headed for a down year. As early as last April, there were predictions the league would be the weakest it had been since Marshall joined C-USA in 2005.

And it was. C-USA was the lowest-rated FBS conference in America.

Then, there is Marshall's schedule. After prevailing through an extremely tough slate in 2011, which included a win over a Louisville program that is going to the Sugar Bowl, the Herd's 2012 schedule was much easier.

Sure, there were two rugged non-conference road games against WVU and Purdue. But all the meaningful tough games -- Ohio, Tulsa and UCF -- were in the friendly confines of Edwards Stadium.

Make that once friendly.

At any rate, the table was set for a break-through season for Marshall in coach Doc Holliday's third year. Just about everyone agreed anything less than an 8-4 regular-season record would be a disappointment.

That explains why the Herd Universe is so disappointed. A losing 5-7 season is the last thing anyone expected. And, justifiably so.

No one expected this season to turn into a losing track meet. But it did. Although Marshall scored 40.9 points per game, it allowed a school record 517 points.

The Herd scored lots of touchdowns, but couldn't tackle anyone on defense or special teams.

Nobody expected that, either.

The bottom line is MU fans had reasonable expectations that weren't met. Based on expectations, on a scale of 1 to 10. ...

Marshall's season was a one.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.



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