Marshall will play five home games and six road games in the final year as a member of the Mid-American Conference. Marshall will open the season against Troy State on Saturday, September 4, at 4:30 p.m. and televised on the Thundering Herd Network. The Trojans gained its first-ever win against the Herd last season when Marshall lost 33-24 in the opening game at newly renovated Movie Gallery Stadium in Troy, Alabama. Marshall is 2-0 all-time in Huntington against the school now just called Troy University, who joins the Sun Belt Conference for 2004.
Marshall then goes on the road to "The Horseshoe" in Columbus, Ohio, for a first time meeting with the Buckeyes in football at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, September 11 at 3:30 p.m. on ABC Regional television. The Buckeyes won the Fiesta Bowl for the second year in a row last year, topping MU's 2003 opponent Kansas State (who MU upset in Manhattan, Kansas, 27-20, over the then-number six Wildcats) after having beaten the Miami Hurricanes for the Division I-A National Championship in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State is ranked number 15 in a pre-season ESPN polland the time of the game (and possible television) is still to be announced.
Speaking of the pre-season poll, the Georgia Bulldogs are ranked number four in the same ESPN poll and MU will play "between the hedges" in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday, September 18 (time tba, on the Thundering Herd Network and WSAZ TV-3 in Huntington). UGA defeated Purdue in last season's Capital One Bowl in Orlando. The Herd has won only once in against the SEC in 13 tries all-time, beating South Carolina, 24-21, in Columbia, SC, in 1998 (0-1 versus Florida, 0-6 vs. Kentucky, 0-1 vs. Mississippi-1997 Motor City Bowl, 0-1 vs. Mississippi State and 0-2 vs. Vanderbilt). The Herd gave Tennessee a scare last season at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee, before a knee injury to quarterback Stan Hill left the Herd with a 34-24 loss in a great effort that was applauded by both Herd and Vols fans after the game.
Marshall will then have 11 days to prepare for the 2003 MAC champs when Miami's RedHawks come in for a ESPN (or ESPN2) game on Wednesday, September 29, at 7:00 p.m. Marshall lost to Miami 45-6 in Oxford, Ohio, last season as Miami marched to the MAC Championship and bowl win behind NFL top ten draft prospect, Ben Roethlisberger. This is the only mid-week home game scheduled and it pits Marshall against the only other team to win the East Division since the Herd came into the MAC in 1997. Marshall and Miami played an "Instant Classic" for ESPN two seasons ago when Stan Hill led the Herd to five touchdowns, including the game-winner with five seconds to play, in a game marred by the arrest of a Miami assistant for an alleged altracation with a Herd fan and the destruction of the visiting coaches booth by angry Miami coaches, following the loss.
The Green and White will have another 11 days before its next contest on Saturday, October 9, when Marshall travels to another green and white team for the annual "Battle For The Bell" with the Ohio Bobcats at Peden Stadium (time-tba, on the Ohio Sports Network on WSAZ TV-3). MU and Ohio will look to continue the rivalry, however, even when Marshall leaves the MAC in 2005, as the two teams have played 51 times since 1905. Another Ohio road trip for Marshall is the following Saturday, October 16, at 4:30 p.m. when Marshall travels to Kent, Ohio, for another MAC East Division contest with the Golden Flashes at Dix Stadium (time-tba, THN). Senior quarterback Josh Cribbs is expected to lead Kent State with his passing and running, if his legal woes are solved over the spring and summer.
Marshall returns home for a pair of East Division games, both kicking off at 4:30 p.m. Buffalo will come to Huntington for what could be the final time when the Bulls run into Huntington on Saturday, October 23. The following Saturday, October 30 (4:30 p.m., Sunshine Network), UCF comes to Huntington for only the second time but not the last, to be sure. The Golden Knights will join the Herd in C-USA in 2005, where this rivalry, already intense after two close Marshall wins (21-16 @ MU in 2003, 21-7 @ UCF last year), and would like nothing better than to win the MAC in their third, and final, year in the league but first under new head coach George O'Leary, the former Minnesota Vikings assistant and former Georgia Tech head coach (before his move to Notre Dame, and resignation, due to irregularities in his resume that have been cleared up since).
Marshall will then travel again to northern Ohio for a meeting with the Akron Zips, the second scheduled nationally televised game, on Friday, November 5, at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2. The Herd will be done with the East Division at this point, earliest since joining the MAC, but will have two very good West Division teams to close out MAC play.
Marshall then finishes out the grand-tour of northern Ohio with a trip to the Toledo-area and a meeting with Bowling Green, who became the first team besides Toledo or Western Michigan to win the West Division in 2003. The game is at Doyt Perry Stadium on Saturday, November 13, at a time to be announced later, as this match-up might make the MAC/Fox Sports Net Package of televised games. If not, it will be on THN.
Finally, Marshall closes out its second turn through the MAC (1953-68, 1997-2004) with a game against the Broncos of Western Michigan on Saturday, November 20, at 4:30 p.m. WMU lost to Marshall twice in the MAC Championships in Huntington, falling in 1999 (a Herd comeback from a 0-23 hole to win and went onto a perfect 13-0 season and number 10 final national ranking in both polls) and 2000, although the Broncos were the first MAC team, and still only one of two, that won in Huntington when they beat MU 30-10 in the 2000 regular season.
Marshall can pickup one additional home game if the Herd wins the East Division for the seventh time in eight seasons, as the East champion will host the MAC Championship on Thursday, December 2, in a game televised by ESPN 2. Marshall is a perfect 5-0 in MAC title games in Huntington and Bob Pruett is a perfect 9-0 in post-season games at the facility now known as Joan C. Edwards Stadium (including four wins on the way to the I-AA National Championship in 1996, Pruett's first season, when the Herd was 15-0). The MAC has ties for two bowls again. The GMAC Bowl will be in Mobile on Wednesday, December 22, while the Motor City Bowl will be in Detroit on Monday, December 27.