After three consecutive seasons of 10 or more wins and three bowl victories in as many seasons, one might think Marshall Football would be the perennial front-runner in the Conference USA East Division.
The Thundering Herd was selected to finish third in the preseason poll, looking up at Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky, both of whom Marshall lost to last season.
So as it appears, the Herd are no longer the hunted, rather the hunter, but head coach Doc Holliday said Tuesday afternoon during his pre-camp press conference that it will continue to be business as usual.
“We’re not going to change what we do,” Holliday said. “Hopefully they (voters) don’t know what they are talking about. I like our team. I like our players and like I said, its all about preparation.”
After a pair of 5-7 seasons bookended a 7-6 effort in 2012 that included Holliday’s first bowl win, Holliday’s program has won no fewer than 10 games each season, including narrowly missing a perfect season in 2014 after falling 67-66 in double overtime to WKU in the regular season finale.
Marshall flirted with a bid to the College Football Playoff Access Bowl that season, but a weak strength of schedule haunted the Herd in the end. However, in 2016, that should not be a problem.
The opportunity for a signature win this season will not be hard to find for the Herd as it will play Power 5 programs Louisville and Pitt out of the Atlantic Coast Conference in back-to-back weeks.
The matchup with the Cardinals was originally scheduled in 2014 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, but was postponed after Louisville departed the Big East for the ACC. Both opponents won eight games last season.
Although Holliday welcomes the opportunity to play Power 5 opponents, he said there is plenty work to be done before the Sept. 24 matchup with the Cardinals.
“We’ve got along way to go to get to that Louisville game, but that should be a great atmosphere and then of course the next week we get the chance to go play a Pitt team that won eight games a year ago and is getting a lot better,” Holliday said.
Not only is Holliday excited about the Herd’s non-conference schedule, but also the battles it will face along the way with C-USA foes.
“Southern Miss is back to where Southern Miss used to be and where we thought they would be,” Holliday said. “Western (Kentucky) has had a tremendous run at it and Middle Tennessee I guess is picked to win the East. It’s a great challenge for all of us to find out where we are.”
While Holliday likes the teams Marshall lines up against this season, he is not a fan of when the season begins, as the Herd opens 2016 with a bye week before entertaining Morgan State Sept. 10, followed by 12 consecutive weeks of football.
“There’s nothing I like about it, but at the end of the day it happens and you don’t worry about it,” Holliday said. “Last year we went 11 straight after we played that first game and didn’t get a break until after we played that 11th game to go play No. 12 and that break didn’t do us a heck of a lot of good at that point it doesn’t seem like. It is what it is and you just have to go with it.”
Regardless of the preseason polls or when the first game of the season kicks off, Holliday said the outcome of the season is well decided well before the ball sails in the opener.
“You don’t win games in August,” Holliday said. “You win games from the time spring ball is over—which I thought was tremendous—the way you work during the summer and then going into camp. We just can’t forget what got us here the last three years and that’s going to work everyday.”
Marshall players report Sunday with camp opening Monday morning.