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Chuck McGill: Herd players, Harbaughs and 2 weeks of hoops

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Judging by Facebook and Twitter, it seems football fans are Super Blah about a Super 'Baugh conclusion to the NFL season.

Chin up, Mountain State sports fans. Did you know there are twice as many former Marshall University football players as there are Harbaughs in this year's Super Bowl?  

True story.

The Thundering Herd has four - two each on the active rosters of the San Francisco 49ers (Randy Moss and C.J. Spillman) and Baltimore Ravens (Omar Brown and Albert McClellan). That's tied for third-most of any college football program when it comes to participants in this year's NFL grand finale.

The Miami Hurricanes have seven representatives in the Feb. 3 title bout. The Oregon Ducks have five, which includes one practice squad player.

Marshall is tied with Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas and Utah. In fact, of the 13 college football programs with three or more representatives in the Super Bowl, the Herd is the only program that isn't in one of the six BCS leagues.

The New Orleans site gives the game a "Geaux Herd" feel, no?

But before the sun sets on football season, two critical weeks await the state's only two Division I men's basketball programs.

Let's consider this the Super Bowl portion of their schedule, based on the importance of this upcoming stretch. Obviously, the Mountaineers' final six regular season games are more daunting, but those have to matter, right?

WVU Coach Bob Huggins hasn't endured a four-game losing streak since Jan. 12-19 in 1985. That was his first season at Akron. I hadn't started kindergarten.

The Mountaineers have a losing record overall (8-9) and in the Big 12 (1-3) heading into this Wednesday's home game against lowly TCU. WVU alternates home and road games the next two weeks, starting with the Horned Frogs (9-9, 0-5), a fellow Big 12 newcomer.

Obviously, the Big Monday showdown in Morgantown in five days against No. 3 Kansas carries some weight. That's a tall, but not impossible, task in the rowdy Coliseum. But WVU needs to snag a few layup games, too.  

Other than the seventh-place Mountaineers, the bottom half of the Big 12 consists of Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Texas and TCU. The Mountaineers play three of those four - Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and TCU - the next two weeks. The fourth, Texas, represents WVU's only conference win in its new league.

The Jayhawks are 49-5 in the Big 12 the last four seasons, but TCU and Texas Tech are a combined 0-9 this season.

Oklahoma State's only two conference wins are over those two winless programs.

Despite Huggins' frustrations with his team, it's a group that is a 1-point loss to Kansas State and 2-point loss at Iowa State away from being in the top half of the league.

And, remember, the seventh-place Mountaineers were picked sixth in the league's preseason poll.

Meanwhile in Herdland, Marshall leaves today for Hattiesburg, Miss., about a two-hour drive from next week's Super Bowl location.

This is a brutal two-game swing for the 9-9 Herd, but it'll confirm or dispel suspicions about this team's performances away from the cozy confines of the Henderson Center.

Marshall has lost 12 of its last 13 true road games, including all five this season. The Herd visits Conference USA's two remaining unbeatens this week: Southern Mississippi (15-4, 4-0) on Wednesday and Memphis (14-3, 3-0) on Saturday.

Southern Miss has won 22 consecutive games at home, including a school record 10 straight C-USA games.

If that isn't daunting enough, there's the fact that the Herd is winless in six tries at Memphis. It hasn't been close, either. The Tigers have won by an average of 18.3 points when hosting the Herd, including by double figures in all but one of those games.

This season, MU has lost by an average of 18.2 points in five true road games. That includes the two worst losses of Coach Tom Herrion's career: by 28 points at Kentucky and 37 points at Ohio.

Marshall's home-road disparity has continued in three C-USA games. The Herd sandwiched 18- and 21-point home wins around an 11-point road loss to UTEP.

Next week won't provide much respite, either, when Herrion's Herd returns home to host Larry Brown's Southern Methodist team on Jan. 30 and Donnie Jones' (probable) final visit to the Henderson Center on Feb. 2.

If that four-game stretch doesn't go well, at least Herd fans win either way on Super Bowl Sunday.

Contact sports editor Chuck McGill at or 304-348-7949.


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