CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Win or lose at Purdue this Saturday, Marshall Coach Doc Holliday could have his program vying for a Conference USA title in his third season.
Is the Thundering Herd a championship-caliber team? Perhaps not yet. In this league, however, the traditional hurdles don't seem to exist.
Through college football's first four weeks, Conference USA is 12-30 overall and 9-27 in non-conference games. The other non-BCS leagues have fared much better.
The Mid-American Conference, the league the Herd used to call home, is 20-21 in non-conference games. The Western Athletic Conference is 16-10, the Mountain West 14-19 and the Sun Belt 13-18.
Marshall (2-2) is one of four C-USA teams without a losing record, and only Tulsa (3-1) and UCF (2-1) have winning records.
It gets messier the deeper you dig.
Two-thirds of Conference USA not only has a losing record, but the bottom eight teams have combined for a 3-24 mark.
The 12-team league, with a geographic footprint extending from El Paso, Texas to Orlando to Huntington, is 1-18 against teams from BCS conferences. The lone win came when Rice, the Herd's 54-51 double overtime victim last Saturday, defeated the Big 12's Kansas by one point, 25-24, on Sept. 8.
Conference USA's other eight non-conference wins came against Akron (MAC), FIU (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC), Fresno State (Mountain West) and four FCS programs.
C-USA is 1-4 against the Sun Belt, and 4-8 overall against non-BCS leagues.
The nation's four worst defenses, per total yards allowed, come from Conference USA: Marshall, Rice, Houston and Southern Methodist. Those four represent four of the five FBS teams that are allowing more than 500 yards of total offense per game.
The league also has five of the worst eight scoring defenses in the nation, and two-thirds of the league (eight teams) ranked in the bottom 19 of scoring defense in the FBS.
Marshall has four conference home games left, and road games against Southern Miss (0-3), UAB (0-3) and East Carolina (2-2) sprinkled in.
The two teams with winning records - UCF and Tulsa - come to Huntington.
It's hard to fathom that Holliday, who needs a win at Purdue to get his career record to .500 (he is 14-15), could have a contender with a defense that allowed 655 yards to West Virginia and 647 to Rice.