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Is Marshall’s Schedule Too Tough?

Marshall played seven consecutive opponents that advanced to a bowl game to start the 2010 season
and now arguably faces an even tougher slate in 2011. Marshall opens the season at West Virginia, hosts Southern Miss, travels to Ohio, hosts Virginia Tech and then travels for back-to-back games at Louisville
and UCF.  Because of the arrangement in the Coal Bowl Marshall has only five home games this season and one of those is against the Hokies.  Frank is Marshall’s scheduled simply too tough for the Herd to be successful this season?
Frank: Dave, I think Marshall is drastically over-scheduled this season.  Ask any coach or administrator in the country and scheduling is one of the two main factors in a program having success.  There is no honor any more in playing an overly ambitious or unrealistic schedule.
Scheduling can greatly impact whether you win and lose. This year’s Marshall schedule does not bode well for Doc Holliday’s team to get off to a good start.  He and his coaching staff could do an outstanding coaching job and still come out of the first six games with a 2-4 record possibly, at best. At best. This season, 62 of Doc’s 81 scholarship players will be freshmen and sophomores. Ideally, you would like to play a schedule where they could get their feet wet first and get some confidence before beginning conference play.
Dave: An old coach told me if you want to be the best then you have to play the best.  Opening the season with games against WVU, Virginia Tech, and Louisville will give us a chance to see how good this team really is.  If Marshall can come out and compete and win one or two of those games the team will be brimming with confidence heading into the conference schedule.  What good is it if you spank three or four cupcakes to open the season to only find you’re not as good as you thought you were once conference play starts?
 Frank: There are years when you want to test yourself. But, every team is in a different situation. Right now, this young Marshall team needs some confidence and needs some wins. This is not the Marshall team of the 90’s that was used to winning and was playing in a weak conference. Those teams could stand to test themselves in the non conference schedule. Right now the program has lost its swagger. They need a couple of games on the schedule that they know right now that they can beat. Look around the country. Most teams have that. Marshall does not.  Every game they play will be at least an even game. When you do that week in and week out, it catches up to you. With the current system in college football, no one is seeing the rewards of playing a tough schedule. 
Take a look at Boise State. When they first began building their program, their schedule was not overly challenging.  Winning breeds confidence and they were a confident team when they got a signature win over Oklahoma in a BCS game. Now, that they have built their brand they are now starting to play one, just one, major opponent such as Virginia Tech.  They still do not challenge themselves with opponents that they an underdog with week in and week out.

Dave: So are you implying there’s a flaw in scheduling non-conference games ten years out?  Games against teams like Virginia Tech were scheduled when Marshall was at the height of its success.  At that point it made sense to scheduled tougher teams, because The Herd was competing with and beating them.   

The generation of Marshall fans that were excited about a winning season in 1984 had experienced nothing but losing for decades.  The younger generation of fans grew up experiencing the football program at its highest point and now expects success and doesn’t want to come watch games against Hofstra or Liberty.
Marshall didn’t get put on the map by thrashing cupcakes.  Signature wins over Clemson, South Carolina, BYU and Kansas State caught people’s attention.  People didn’t bat and eye when Marshall beat Akron, Toledo and Appalachian State.
Marshall is trying to get its program back to that level and needs a signature win.  A win over Virginia Tech or WVU makes you the lead story on ESPN.  Beating “Pick-A-Direction Michigan University” gets your score scrolling on the bottom line.
Frank: You are actually making my point for me. Marshall did make a name for itself in 1998 by beating South Carolina and by beating Clemson in 1999. But, in those years, they played South Carolina in 1998 and NO ONE ELSE. In 1999, they played Clemson and NO ONE ELSE.  Any coach in America will tell you it is not easy to get ready to play at your highest level in back to back weeks. Had Marshall played another couple of BCS opponents in back to back weeks after those Clemson and South Carolina wins, it would have been tough to get wins. Marshall experienced that last year even at a bad Bowling Green team after the WVU game.  Even a great Alabama team that was a talented as any team in the country, lost three games by playing a string of great opponents on back to back to back weekends.  By playing Clemson and South Carolina and no one else in 1998 and 1999, Marshall made itself relevant nationally. Ball State did the same thing three years ago. This schedule now gives Marshall no chance to be relevant. This team is too young to expect to do any better than 3-3 in the first six games this seasoan, and that makes them "nothing special" nationally.
Dave: I’m making your point for you? I hate when I do that.

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