HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As the curtain lifts on Marshall's ninth league season in Conference USA, the stage has a different feel.
Take your pick. The expectations surrounding the Thundering Herd are a little higher than in previous years, what with returning league MVP, a veteran offensive line and a defense that appears to be substantially improved.
That, and a league schedule that is different, for better or worse. After all, there are six new teams in the league, all coming from the lower-crust Sun Belt Conference or the football-defunct Western Athletic Conference.
One isn't even a full Bowl Subdivision member, and that would be Texas-San Antonio. The still-reclassifying Roadrunners will be playing their 28th football game - ever, in any division - when they line up at Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 2 p.m. today.
Sort of like Georgia State, right? A cakewalk?
Almost certainly not, even on the Herd's homecoming afternoon.
The Roadrunners (2-3, 1-0) were competitive for three quarters last week against Houston but, most important, they have a C-USA win and a lot of confidence.
"The coach [Larry Coker] has got them prepared, and they don't look like a first-year Conference USA team," said MU center Chris Jasperse. "They don't look young; they look like they've been in the league a couple of years, five years. They're doing a good job."
So that presents the first C-USA challenge for the Herd (2-2, 0-0), which took a tough-to-swallow two-game losing streak into an off week. The Herd is chasing several elusive milestones, which include: