By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
This has shaped up to be a notable week for the future of Marshall football.
Two days before national letter-of-intent signing day, the Thundering Herd’s 2014 schedule was released Monday and includes several intriguing matchups for what will be the defending Conference USA East Division champion.
“It’s a solid, competitive schedule for us,” head coach Doc Holliday said. “Like last year, we have a bye week between our four non-league games and our Conference USA opener . Then halfway through conference play we have another bye (Nov. 1), which balances the schedule.
“We have FAU here, and we go again to FIU. That’s important because of our recruiting presence in Florida and a lot of our players are from down there. Rice, Middle Tennessee and Ohio were in bowls last year, and Western Kentucky won eight and should have (played in) a bowl. Old Dominion won eight games making the move to FBS, too.”
The season will start Saturday, Aug. 30, with the Herd returning a trip to old Mid-American Conference rival Miami (Ohio). Marshall began 2013 with a 52-14 win over the RedHawks.
The remainder of the nonconference portion consists of home games against Rhode Island on Saturday, Sept. 6, and Ohio on Saturday, Sept. 13, and a game at Akron, another former MAC foe.
For the first time in three years, Marshall will face rival Ohio without having to gameplan for quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who exhausted his eligibility last season and posted three straight wins in the Battle for the Bell series.
Rhode Island recently hired Jim Fleming as its new head coach. Fleming is familiar with the Herd after he spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons as the linebackers coach at Central Florida. He was the defensive coordinator for the Knights in 2013, their first season in the American Athletic Conference in which they beat Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
The Rams take the place of Louisville, which bought out of its appearance in Huntington to accommodate scheduling for its inaugural season in the ACC.
After a bye week, Marshall will start conference play Saturday, Oct. 4, at new league member Old Dominion.
Among the highlights of the Herd’s conference schedule are a rematch with Middle Tennessee — which handed Marshall its only regular-season league loss last season — at home on Saturday, Oct. 11, and a rematch with Rice in Huntington on Saturday, Nov. 15. Rice beat the Herd in the C-USA championship game in December.
The only game not scheduled for a Saturday is a second straight Black Friday matchup (Nov. 28) in Huntington against a second league newcomer, Western Kentucky.
Times will be announced later. Dates are subject to change according to TV deals.
The Herd will play six East Division teams and two West teams — Rice and Southern Miss, which will move from the East starting in 2014. C-USA will operate with seven teams in the East and six in the West for one season before Charlotte joins in 2015.
“It’s a very good schedule for us,” athletic director Mike Hamrick said. “The way it lays out, alternating between home and road games, is a plus. It’s good for our team and our fans. Our home schedule is filled with teams that are projected to be among the best in C-USA, along with the Herd. It’s also fan-friendly, with games within driving distance (at Miami and Akron), besides our six home dates.”
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Aug. 30 at Miami (Ohio)
Sept. 6 RHODE ISLAND
Sept. 13 OHIO
Sept. 20 at Akron
Oct. 4 at Old Dominion
Oct. 11 MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Oct. 18 at FIU
Oct. 25 FLORIDA ATLANTIC
Nov. 8 at Southern Miss
Nov. 15 RICE
Nov. 22 at UAB
Nov. 28 WESTERN KENTUCKY