HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Even though the Marshall football team earned votes in the two human polls that factor into the Bowl Championship Series ratings - and its Conference USA title game opponent Rice received none - it wasn't enough for the Thundering Herd to close the gap with Rice in the computer rankings that also go into the BCS ratings. So the Herd will head to Houston on Saturday to face the Owls for the Conference USA title.
The game kicks off at noon on ESPN2.
The Herd and the Owls sport the same overall (9-3) and conference (7-1) record. Marshall punched its title game ticket with a 59-28 win Friday over East Carolina for the East Division title. Rice held off Tulane, 17-13, this past Saturday to win the West Division. Because of those identical records - and the fact that Marshall and Rice did not play each other this year - the host team was decided on BCS ranking.
Projections had Marshall comfortably ahead of Rice, thanks to the Herd's emergence in the USA Today coaches and Harris Interactive polls. Each of those polls counts for a third of the overall BCS ranking, along with the average of six computer rankings.
The Herd appeared in the USA Today and Harris polls for the first time Sunday. The coaches gave Marshall 13 points in their poll, while Harris voters gave Marshall 10 points. Rice did not receive a vote in either poll, so it would need an overwhelming lead in the computer rankings to overtake Marshall.
The Owls got what they needed.
Rice's computer average was 0.628, ahead of Marshall's 0.55. Even with the human polls included. Rice's BCS average was 0.2093, compared to the Herd's 0.1874. Rice finished ahead of Marshall in five of the six computer rankings.
Many Herd fans looked at the BCS projection of CBSSports.com's Jerry Palm as their inspiration. It had the Herd significantly ahead of Rice. But, according to a C-USA release, rankings like Palm's don't factor any computer poll values for teams not receiving votes, so they're not reliable as a measuring stick. C-USA had been in contact with Palm, and the conference said he "fully agrees" with that analysis.
"I worked with C-USA today on an extended BCS formula for breaking the tie between Marshall and Rice for home field advantage in the conference championship game," Palm said in a C-USA release. "It doesn't match the formula I use for my ratings on CBSSports.com, which serve a different purpose, but I believe it was absolutely appropriate and fair."
Whether Marshall would host Rice or the Herd would travel to Houston for the C-USA title game didn't matter much to Holliday. He said after Friday's win that the site of the game wouldn't alter Marshall's plans to get ready for the Owls.
"That won't change our preparation," Holliday said. "We'll prepare the same, whether it's here or on the road. That part won't change."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.
Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.