WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The parallel hasn't been lost in the Marshall camp: Step back out of conference, take on a BCS-level opponent on the road and see what happens.
It didn't work out too poorly in the Thundering Herd camp last year. Marshall slugged it out on even terms for four quarters, got a late interception and scooted out of Louisville with a 17-13 win.
In a year Marshall needed every win to qualify for a bowl game, that win was huge. But it might have been bigger for the team's psyche - and the win grew in stature when Louisville downed West Virginia and tied for the Big East championship.
So as Marshall takes the field today against Purdue at Ross-Ade Stadium, players have vowed to take that confidence and use it to negate all advantages enjoyed by the Boilermakers of the beefy Big Ten.
"I think we know how it feels, and what it takes to win a big game on the road," said Herd receiver Aaron Dobson. "Everybody's got their mind right, and it's going to be a great game."
That road confidence and ability to overcome adversity showed through in last week's game at Rice, as the Herd escaped with a double-overtime victory in a 1,200-yard track meet.
Don't expect that when the teams collide at 3:15 p.m. today. Purdue's defense features a sturdy front four with at least two future NFL draft picks, two veteran cornerbacks and a whole corps of, oh, Big Ten-caliber athletes.
That defense will test an offensive line that has protected well enough to allow the Herd to lead the nation in passing yardage (383.5 per game). If the Purdue front four can get a consistent pass rush without blitzing help, the Herd is in a heap of trouble.
Purdue coach Danny Hope expects a tricky scheme, beginning with the Herd's 90-play-per-game tempo. He has expressed a good fortune in having an extra week to prepare at a time most coaches would prefer not to have a bye week.
"They're loaded with talent, a lot of good athletes, a lot of guys we knew in the recruiting process," Hope said. "They are a great passing team, the number one passing team in the nation. They've got a good quarterback, he was a rookie a year ago but he's much more experienced, much more efficient.