THERE IS a number Marshall fans will read and hear until their Thundering Herd stands up and says otherwise.
The Herd is 2-16 against Southern Mississippi, Central Florida and East Carolina since joining Conference USA. If you can't compete against those three schools, you're playing for fourth in the six-team East Division.
The Herd played those teams consecutively to open its C-USA - a big shout-out to the league office on that point - and has lost all three. The combined score was 113-40.
It's the "40" that is most disturbing. Even more disturbing: Nine points were scored on special teams.
If it continues that anemia, the Herd is headed for a 1-11 season. While I figure that won't be the case, I am fully braced for five more rounds of offensive offense.
But I'm used to it. Marshall, known as a grass-basketball school from 1984-2003, is mired in a "dead ball" era.
Even worse: This is the seventh year.
The NCAA stat rankings illustrate this vividly. Starting with 2004, the Herd has fared no better than 81st of 110-plus teams in total offense in four of the last six years, topping 354 yards per game just once. Scoring is worse - the Herd has been no better than 70th in scoring offense five of the six years, and has not hit 26 points per game.
The anomalies came in 2006, with the Herd 49th in yardage (354.3) and 48th in scoring (25.9). That was Ahmad Bradshaw's last year before going pro, in which he rushed for 1,523 yards.
The Herd averaged 412.8 yards in 2007, but scored just 24.8 points, ranking 77th. That was (a) Bernard Morris' senior season and (b) the Herd's toughest year defensively in recent years. Marshall was behind early and often in the 3-9 campaign.
Now we get to this season, in which the new spread attack is faring even worse. After handing ECU's depleted defense its best game of the season, MU's total offense still isn't averaging 300 yards a game. It's at 298.7, ranking 110th of 120 teams.
Points-wise, Marshall has scored 120 over seven games, an average plummeting to 17.1. So far, that's the Herd's lowest in the 2004-current era, and is ranked 107th in the nation.
For contrast, the 2003 Herd was 18th in yardage (440.9) and 39th in points (29.2). And didn't we consider that mildly disappointing?
Sure sounds good about now.