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Chuck Landon: C-USA has help on way for football at Marshall

Dec. 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Ready to read some good news about Marshall's football program?

Then, you've come to the right place.

After two 7-6 records and six losing seasons in the last eight years, I am pleased to announce the Herd is headed for prosperity again.

It's inevitable.

I mean, has anybody seen the composition of Conference USA's new East and West divisions when all the new members come aboard?

The West Division will include Tulsa, UTEP, Rice, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, UT-San Antonio and -- surprise -- Southern Miss.

That's not bad.

Tulsa has been the consistently best program in C-USA since Marshall joined in 2005. And given its unique geographical perch, UTEP has a chance to get good again under new coach Sean Kugler.

Then, there's Rice, which is going to a bowl game this year, and a Louisiana Tech program that has been a powerhouse although it has to replace departed coach Sonny Dykes. And don't forget the UTSA Roadrunners, who had an 8-4 record this season.

And, of course, there's that surprise team ... Southern Miss. The Eagles might not like getting switched from the East to the West Division, but they are certain to revive their winning ways.

So, again, the future West Division appears very solid.

Then, there's the East Division.

It will include Marshall, UAB, Florida International, Florida Atlantic (2014), Old Dominion (joining in 2014), Charlotte (2015) and Middle Tennessee State (2014).

Does the term "weak sister" come to mind?

Marshall was 5-7 last season, while UAB was 3-9 as members of C-USA's East Division. FIU was a miserable 3-9 and fired once highly regarded coach Mario Cristobal. FAU was only slightly better with a 4-8 record.

Then, there's Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee State.

The ODU Monarchs went 11-2, finally bowing out in the Football Bowl Championship division's quarterfinals to Georgia Southern, 49-35.

The Blue Raiders also had a successful season in the Sun Belt Conference with an 8-4 record. However, Middle Tennessee State did get whacked, 45-0, in its last regular-season game by rival Arkansas State, which believed it should have been invited to join C-USA instead of the Blue Raiders.

As for Charlotte, the 49ers didn't even play football this season.

So, let's review. Only one future East Division member had a winning season in FBS competition and two of the new members -- Old Dominion and Charlotte -- will be making their debuts as FBS schools when they join C-USA.

Given all that information, it appears the future East Division will be considerably less than formidable.

That means if Marshall can rebound from a disappointing 5-7 record in 2012 and get the program steered back onto the right track, the Herd potentially could dominate its division.

Would that be backing into success?

Sure.

But success is success. Backing into it is still better than six losing seasons in the last eight years.

Besides, Marshall just will be playing the cards it's dealt. Did the Herd get a better hand than Southern Miss? Absolutely. But blame the dealer, not Marshall.

The bottom line is a diluted C-USA in general and a watered-down East Division, in particular, could play right into the hands of Marshall's football program.

That's what I call making the best of a bad situation.

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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