Marshall is ideal first opponent
Published: Thursday, August 30, 2012
Updated: Thursday, August 30, 2012 23:08
In recent years, a strong contingent of the Mountaineer faithful has cried foul over the continuation of the Friends of Coal Bowl. The series, once viewed as exciting and worthwhile, has lost its appeal to the masses.
I can’t say I blame them.
Sure, the Thundering Herd has given West Virginia a few serious scares in recent memory – the 2010 game in Huntington was a joy to watch – but to date, Marshall has yet to register a victory over its in-state "rival."
Though the longevity of the series is under attack for good reason and the glitter has worn off the series for most, I can assure you there is still value in tomorrow’s matchup – one that will be the last for the foreseeable future.
The nonconference schedule of major college football teams does not have to be strong – particularly if you are in a conference such as the SEC or Big 12.
Scheduling "cupcake" teams has become an acceptable norm by those in the college football society, and though that began as a safety strategy, a few teams have produced some memorable moments in the past five years, including Appalachian State and James Madison.
With Marshall, James Madison and Maryland, the Mountaineers have struck a fine balance between competitive teams are geographically relevant and should be easy to beat.
If I could pick any of those teams – or any other team on the schedule, for that matter, I would still choose Marshall as West Virginia’s first opponent.
With several playmakers and a chip the size of the state of West Virginia on its shoulder, the Thundering Herd will come out with guns blazing and won’t stop until the final whistle blows.
West Virginia will be challenged, and they will not be able to use the record-setting Orange Bowl victory to intimidate Marshall.
I feel confident in saying West Virginia will run into some trouble. After all, it is the first game of the season. That said, do I think they will lose the game?
I do think, though, that Marshall will be able to highlight some of the Mountaineers’ weaknesses and give the coaching staff plenty to work on during the upcoming bye week.
Another bonus that the Marshall game brings is an above-average energy level to the stadium. The shared state dynamic is a good one and the only of its kind on West Virginia’s schedule.
Huntington, W.Va., is not a far drive, and there will be plenty of green-and-white clad supporters throughout the stands of Milan Puskar Stadium tomorrow.
Any time Marshall makes a great play, the players on the field will be able to hear the fans’ reactions. This is a good thing, especially for the younger players.
On top of that, Mountaineer fans have been waiting since January to watch their beloved squad take the field and play under the Big 12 Conference logo. They will be rocking from the start.
For any team across the country, the first game is a good measure to see where the team stands and what areas need the most attention as the season progresses.
Tomorrow night’s game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 8 Michigan is going to be awesome to watch, but it’s also going to be tough to really judge how good either team is.
Save the bigger games for the middle of the schedule, I say; work out the kinks before you hit the meat of it.
However, you still want your team to get pushed early. Nobody wants to watch a 50-point blowout – well, some people do, but the coaching staff probably doesn’t.
Marshall comes to Morgantown with a perfect balance of skill, speed and desire to win. The Mountaineers are going to have to work hard from the very beginning of the game, but should still feel confident before they take the field.
We’ll see some great plays tomorrow; we’ll also see some great mistakes. Marshall is good enough to make the game interesting, but not good enough to be considered the favorite.
Though they might not be the perfect opponent next week, next month or even next season, they are very ideal for this – the first Saturday of the season.