HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Difference in climate aside, the parallels between Marshall and Southern Mississippi are uncanny.
When the Thundering Herd takes the field tonight in Mississippi's Pine Belt, it will do so in a 36,000-seat stadium on a somewhat compact campus in a small, proud town. With perfect weather in the forecast, expect a good walk-up at the ticket booth and an enthusiastic crowd in the upper-20,000s.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. EDT, with the game airing on CBS Sports Network. Viewers will see two teams who have taken similar hard-luck routes to this game.
The Herd (2-4, 1-1 Conference USA) may have two more victories than the Golden Eagles (0-6, 0-2), but their seasons have these similarities:
For the Eagles, a loss snaps their 18-year streak of winning seasons - that from a team that won 12 games last year and heisted the Conference USA championship.
A win tonight could do more than improve morale and give new coach Ellis Johnson his first win in Hattiesburg. The Eagles' schedule suggests a very possible six-game winning streak, a bowl bid and a chance to salvage another winning season.
"Ellis Johnson, with what he had to face with a young quarterback, had his hands full," said Herd coach Doc Holliday. "He's got Nebraska. He's got Boise. He's got Louisville. He goes to Western Kentucky, a team that is 5-1 and beat Kentucky. He's got East Carolina.
"But he hasn't lost his players. He has held them together. They're playing extremely hard. That's a tribute to him and that's a tribute to that team."
Marshall has won just one game against an FBS opponent, but that was a conference road game. The Thundering Herd also has a lot on the line - a loss would make MU 2-5, 1-2 with Central Florida coming to Huntington next week.
On the other hand, if the Herd earns its second win in Hattiesburg in four tries, the UCF game becomes a toe-to-toe bout for leadership in the East Division.