BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - As the cynics both inside and outside the Marshall fan base would point out, the Thundering Herd's four victories have come against teams with a combined 6-32 record.
Guess what? Win or lose, that stat won't improve today.
As it tries to continue a rally to bowl eligibility, the Herd (4-5, 3-2 Conference USA) faces another team that has clinched a losing season, Alabama-Birmingham (2-7, 1-4). Kickoff time is 4:30 p.m. EST, with the game airing on WVAH, channel 11 in Charleston-Huntington.
Soon enough, Marshall will play teams with better records, finishing the season with Houston and East Carolina. But today, the road to the postseason runs through 85-year-old Legion Field and its legion of empty bleachers.
Much like last week against 1-8 Memphis, the Herd must take care of business against UAB and establish its first two-game winning streak of the season. The alternative is not a good option, and will wipe out the margin of error for bowl eligibility, and make a grumpy fan base back home even grumpier, among other consequences.
"We have a lot to play for," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "There is a lot left out there on the table for us. I mentioned last week that we had four shots and now we're down to three shots."
But the good news: The Herd need only worry about one of those shots today against a perennially struggling program and an East Division rival the Herd has dominated since entering C-USA, going 6-1 against UAB.
In many ways, the Herd's advantage is clearer that the two-game difference in the team's records, both overall and in league play.
For one, Marshall is riding a three-game road winning streak in conference play, dating back to the nearly disastrous 23-22 win over Memphis last November. Again, the opponents haven't been overwhelming - that Memphis team, Rice and Southern Mississippi this year - but the Herd had won six road games in the previous six-plus seasons against teams of any pedigree.
The last road performance, a 59-24 win over Southern Miss, wasn't shabby, even if the Golden Eagles are still winless.
"We've played really well on the road, but it can be a lot better," said safety Okechukwu Okoroha. "It's going to be a tough matchup. These guys don't look like a [2-7] team."
Marshall's offense stands to get back above the 500-yard mark in total offense after being held to 364 by Central Florida and 433 by Memphis. The former was caused by simple good defense, the latter by the Tigers stranding Rakeem Cato and company on the sidelines.