Scheduling is a key factor for a college football team’s success these days and the same can be said for Marshall Thundering Herd football.
It wasn’t long ago that Marshall was getting ridiculed for a weak schedule during the program’s historic 13-1 season in 2014 that featured a C-USA Championship, Boca Raton Bowl victory, and a final national ranking of 23rd in the AP Poll as well as 22nd in the final Coaches Poll.
For as much success as the Herd had that season, the college football aficionados looked down on Doc Holliday’s team for a factor that was out of its own control. But since that season, Marshall’s schedules have taken on a noticeable upgrade.
The Herd has played four Power Five conference teams since that 2014 season, two at home and two on the road. Marshall has hosted a Big Ten and ACC team over the past three seasons, which is a rather rare feat for a Group of Five team to get the opportunity to do.
The first came during the 2015 season when Marshall hosted Purdue in the season opener for both teams. It resulted in a thrilling 41-31 victory for the Herd in front of the fourth-largest crowd in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history of 38,791.
It was the Herd’s first win over a Big Ten conference team in program history and the first time in Marshall history a Big Ten team visited Huntington, West Virginia. The second most recent visit from a P5 team came during the 2016 season when then-No. 3 Louisville and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson came to town.
Despite the lopsided final score of 59-28 in favor of the Cardinals in the midst of a would-be 3-9 season for the Herd, it ended up being the second largest crowd in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history of 40,592. Marshall will have the opportunity to host another P5 team this coming season when the ACC once again makes a visit.
The North Carolina State Wolfpack will visit Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Sept. 22 in the return game of a home-and-home series that began last season with a much closer than it looked 37-20 win for NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina. The Wolfpack finished the 2017 season at 9-4 overall and ranked No. 23 in the final AP and Coaches Poll.
Along with the huge home game against NC State, the Herd also goes on the road at South Carolina of the SEC on Sept. 15 this coming season. The Gamecocks finished the 2017 season at 9-4 overall and look to be even better in 2018.
Those two games help set the tone for some of what Marshall can expect out of its future non-conference football schedules. The 2019 season continues that trend when on Sept. 7, the Herd travels to Boise, Idaho to battle the Boise State Broncos, the standard bearer of G5 football over the past decade-plus.
The Herd also has home games with rival Ohio from the MAC and Cincinnati of the AAC in 2019. The game with Ohio is the first of a home-and-home series that concludes in 2020 and Cincinnati’s visit to Huntington will be the first time the Bearcats have visited since 2008 and will conclude the home-and-home series that began at Cincinnati in 2017 with a Marshall victory.
The 2020 season will see quite possibly the best non-conference schedule in Marshall football history. The Herd opens up the season on the road at old rival East Carolina and then at Ohio.
This will be the first time Marshall has played the Pirates since they left C-USA for the AAC following the 2013 season and the history between Marshall and East Carolina is a long and memorable one, to say the least.
The schedule doesn’t let up any after those two games when Marshall will have arguably the two biggest back-to-back home games in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history. The first comes when the Pittsburgh Panthers of the ACC comes to town for the first time to conclude the home-and-home series that began in 2016 with a Pitt win at Heinz Field.
The home game that follows will see Boise State come to Huntington to conclude the home-and-home series that began in 2019. The 2020 season should be one to remember for the Herd and having teams like Pitt and Boise State come to Edwards Stadium in back-to-back weeks is about as big as it gets for a G5 team.
The 2021 season sees the Herd visit Navy of the AAC followed with a home game against East Carolina and a road game at Appalachian State of the Sun Belt. Appalachian State will visit Huntington the following season to conclude the home-and-home series with the Herd.
In 2023, Marshall will host Navy in the return game of their home-and-home series along with a road game at East Carolina and a home game against Liberty. The 2024 season will see the Herd visit Liberty in the return game of the home-and-home series between the teams and the Pirates of East Carolina will visit Huntington again in 2025.
It’s an exciting time for Marshall football and the unique challenges that will face the Herd in the coming years are intriguing and fresh to see. And not only will Marshall be playing perceived stout competition, but much of that competition will be playing in Huntington, which should result in more record-setting attendances at Edwards Stadium.
It probably isn’t a stretch to say that the next several years will see the best non-conference schedules in Marshall football history and for a G5 team that thrives on big games, that’s all anyone can ask for.