CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A sudden blip of support in the two polls associated with the Bowl Championship Series appeared to swing Marshall's attempt to host the Conference USA championship game, but the Thundering Herd will travel to Rice for Saturday's game.
In a clear result of the Herd's 59-28 win over East Carolina on Friday, Marshall received votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll and the Harris poll, each of which constitutes one-third of the BCS formula. Six computer indexes, such as the Sagarin ratings, make up the other third.
According to Conference USA officials, Rice's strength in the computer rankings outweighed Marshall's advantage in the polls. But Marshall supporters are questioning whether the application of the BCS formula was correct.
Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick was not available for comment Sunday night. In a prepared statement, he said, "We're certainly disappointed that we will not be able to host Saturday's Conference USA championship in front of our wonderful fans.
"With that said, we are extremely excited for the opportunity to compete for a league title and look forward to a great game with Rice University."
Marshall and Rice, both 9-3 overall and 7-1 in league play, won their respective divisions to advance to the championship game, which is played at the site of the team with the best record. The Thundering Herd and Owls did not meet, so the head-to-head tiebreaker could not be used.
Per the league's description in its weekly releases, the tie is then broken by the team with the "highest BCS ranking."
The BCS formula's treatment of the polls is straightforward: Take the number of points earned in the poll and divide it by the number of possible points.
Marshall received 13 points in the coaches' poll, where there are 62 voters and a maximum of 1,550 points. That gives MU 0.0084 points for the BCS formula.
The Herd received 10 points in the Harris poll, where 105 voted for a maximum of 2,625 points. That earned the Herd a smaller slice, 0.0038.
By the BCS's guidelines, Marshall would have to average in the top 25 to even register in that category.
The methodology listed on the BCS's web site states: "Points will be assigned in inverse order of ranking from 1-25. A team's highest and lowest computer ranking will be discarded in calculating its computer rankings average. The four remaining computer scores will be averaged and the total will be calculated as a percentage of 100."
In fact, two teams ranked in Sunday's BCS top 25 registered a zero in the computer rankings, Louisville and Fresno State. So would Marshall and Rice, in that stated protocol.
Total up the three categories and divide by three, and you have Marshall with a BCS score of 0.0041. Rice, which did not receive votes in either poll, scores a zero.
On that count, the noon game Saturday would be at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.