Marshall University football coach Doc Holliday downplays the in-state rivalry between his Thundering Herd and West Virginia, but did admit that Saturday's game between the two schools is a big game.
"It's a big game because it's our next game," he said during Monday's Conference USA coaches teleconference. "Our kids have worked extremely hard since January. We had a great camp, and now it's time to go play somebody else."
Marshall players just started classes this week, and Holliday said it will be important to establish a routine quickly. West Virginia's players started classes last week.
"We have to make sure we eliminate distractions this week," he said.
This will be the second meeting between WVU coach Dana Holgorsen and Holliday. Last year's season opener between the two schools was shortened by storms so severe that it forced the evacuation of Mountaineer Field. WVU won that meeting, 34-13, continuing the Mountaineers dominance in the Friends of Coal Bowl. WVU has won all eight previous meetings and all 11 of the games in the history of the series.
The game kicks off at noon in Morgantown, and it will be televised on the FX network. The Mountaineers come into the season ranked 11th in the national polls.
"They are one of the top teams in America," Holliday said. "We have great respect for West Virginia."
Holliday said he realizes that the explosive Mountaineer offense will rack up its usual statistics. He said his team has to make sure WVU doesn't rack up its usual points.
"Geno Smith has been picked to win the Heisman, and he should win the Heisman," Holliday said of the WVU quarterback. "He's been picked to be the Player of the Year in the Big 12 Conference. If he's not picked, Tavon Austin probably would be.
"Between Stedman (Bailey), Geno and Tavon, a great offensive line and a great player at every position, we are going to have our hands full," he added. Holliday said the Mountaineer defense will feature "a lot of unknowns" because of having a new coaching staff and a new playbook.
"They have good players on defense, not just on the offense," he said.