HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- With Marshall's 2014 football schedule all but carved in stone, let the speculation begin: Can the Thundering Herd win them all?
There's were no surprises in the nonconference portion, which includes no games against teams from the "power 5" conferences, three games against Mid-American Conference foes and one against a Championship Subdivision opponent.
But with the league reshuffling its memberships and divisions, the Herd has a Conference USA schedule that might be more favorable than expected. Then again, some observers may view C-USA in general as more favorable to the Herd, reigning East Division champions.
Whatever the case, the league and its members announced their schedules Monday, and Thundering Herd fans will notice a curveball or two.
For one, the Herd will play its second consecutive road game against Florida International, giving many MU players another chance to play before friends and families - and for fans to sneak in another trip to south Florida if they can pull it off.
Another quirk: MU will play at Southern Mississippi, though that's not technically continuing the home-and-home rotation of the last nine years. With the league realigning geographically, the Golden Eagles are now a West Division team.
The Herd's other crossover foe is defending C-USA champion Rice, which visits Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Nov. 15.
Both league newcomers reside in the East Division, and Marshall travels to Norfolk, Va.-based Old Dominion on Oct. 4. That begins the C-USA schedule; a home game on Friday, Nov. 28 against Western Kentucky finishes the regular season.
C-USA will have 13 teams this year, with the departure of East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane to the American Athletic Conference. There will be seven teams in the East and six in the West.
Like last year, this scheduling format is for one year only (thus explaining the return to FIU and no trip to 2013 home foe Texas-San Antonio). With Charlotte joining league play in 2015, another East team will be moving to the West, probably Alabama-Birmingham.
For Herd fans in the Huntington area, one road game is three or so hours away (Miami of Ohio), another one less than 300 miles distant (Akron) and a third less than 500 miles away (Old Dominion).
"The travel's good, the quality of opponents at home is really good with Middle Tennessee, [Florida Atlantic] and Western Kentucky," said MU athletic director Mike Hamrick. "We split the Florida games, which is really good, and in the nonconference schedule, the fans can go to the two road games. I think our schedule really lays out well."