New year, same complaint

Throughout Marshall’s impressive 2014 season—which included the school’s first C-USA Championship, a No. 23 AP ranking at the season’s end and a win in the Boca Raton Bowl— one common complaint from critics across the nation drove Herd fans crazy.

The complaint? Marshall’s strength of schedule.

Unfortunately, Herd fans will likely hear the same tune from critics during the 2015 season as Marshall has the easiest schedule in all of Division I football, according to the NCAA’s strength of schedule method.

The NCAA’s method is based solely on the opponents’ win/loss record from the previous season.

Marshall kicks off the season Sept. 6 hosting Purdue University.

Now, I know what you are thinking: Purdue? The same Purdue from the Big Ten, one of college football’s toughest and most well respected conferences? Yes, that Purdue.

However, this Boilermaker team is not the same team from the early and mid-2000s that saw the likes of future NFL stars, such as Drew Brees and Cliff Avril.

This Purdue team finished the 2014 season dead last in its conference with a 3-9 record. The year before that, the Boilermakers went an abysmal 1-11.

I think it is safe to say Purdue will not be considered very competitive in a Big Ten conference that consists of Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State. So, despite being a “big name university” on the Herd’s schedule, Purdue does absolutely nothing in strengthening Marshall’s schedule this season.

Marshall’s next 10 games will only see two teams that did not finish last season with a losing record—Ohio and Middle Tennessee. While both teams did not have a losing record, neither had a winning record. The Bobcats and Blue Raiders both finished the 2014 season 6-6.

Marshall will face close-to-home rival Ohio Sept. 12 in Athens for its annual “Battle for the Bell.” Last season, the Herd pummeled the Bobcats 44-14 while accumulating more than 700 yards of total offense.

Middle Tennessee will host Marshall Nov. 7 in Murfreesboro. The teams’ last meeting saw the Herd easily handle the Blue Raiders 49-24 in Marshall’s 2014 homecoming game.

Marshall’s last game of the regular season comes against the only team on its 2015 schedule that had a winning record last season. (The fact Marshall is considered to have the easiest schedule in all of college football is starting to make a little more sense.)

That team would be none other than Western Kentucky, who had an 8-5 record—the same team that handed Marshall its only lose last season and ruined its chances for a spot in a major bowl game.

The teams’ thrilling game last season saw 91 combined points scored in the first half alone, just three off the all-time record of 94, and was possibly the most incredible offensive showcase of the year.

Without question, Marshall and Western Kentucky are the class of C-USA.

The Hilltoppers will host the Herd Nov. 27 in Bowling Green in what will surely be a hostile atmosphere as the two teams got into a bit of a scuffle before the start of last year’s game.

Marshall’s schedule may be considered the least challenging of the 128 teams in Division I football, but Herd fans have to keep in mind that back-to-back conference championships and a major bowl game— both of which are possibilities— can lead to great things for the future of the team and the university.

So, as tough as it may be, Herd fans, try to continue drowning out those critics who say your team is beating up on a bunch of “nobodies.”

Malcolm Walton can be contacted at [email protected]