It’s time for staff picks. So far no one has checked in with a pick that puts the Hokies on the short end of the score. We’ll see everyone will either be 1-0 or 0-1 tomorrow night.
With both teams starting new quarterbacks, it is tough to predict how each offense will fare in the first game of the season. Josh Jackson is a complete unknown, while Grier has collegiate experience. While I trust that Fuente made the right decision with Jackson, I find it difficult to believe that Jackson will be flawless. Getting the running game going against a lackluster WVU defense (on paper) will help him tremendously. On the other side of the football, I think Virginia Tech’s speed on defense can keep up with West Virginia to alleviate a little more pressure off the offense. The one position group I’m watching? The Hokies’ offensive line. While they were good in spurts last season, they have a chance to be very good this year and it all starts with a strong showing against WVU. I think they give Jackson time to survey the defense to do his part in a 28-24 Hokies win.
I can't really predict what's going to happen. Who knows how the very inexperienced offensive skill players will react? Who knows how West Virginia's replaced defense works? Who knows how Will Grier looks after two years on the shelf? I trust Bud Foster and his defense more than any other member of the combined coaching staffs, and I think that makes the difference. It's not like I don't trust Coach Fuente, it's just that the VT defense is the most established unit in the game. So I pick VT 27 WVU 21; Because why not.
The Virginia Tech Hokies and the West Virginia Mountaineers finally meet on the gridiron for the first time since 2005. Josh Jackson gets his first start at quarterback for the Hokies and he'll have his hands full. The Mountaineers have some inexperience on the defensive side of the ball, so expects lots of disguises and blitzes. Jackson will make some mistakes early, but will progress throughout the game. Defensively, Bud Foster will throw the kitchen sink at WVU. The Hokies will force a couple of turnovers and that will prove to be the difference. VT 27, WVU 20
There is excitement surrounding WVU’s unique 3-3-5 defense, but their offense looks to be the actual strength of the team. Mountaineer 2016 backup RB, Justin Crawford, stepped up to the tune of 1,184 yards and four TDs when starter Russel Shell struggled with injuries. WVU loses two of their top 2016 receiving targets, but retain some experience. Florida Gators transfer QB Will Grier was targeted by programs like Ohio State after being suspended during the 2015 season, but chose West Virginia. Despite putting up some impressive numbers in the six games he started Grier has been out of football for over a year. There are questions about how much he was really called on to execute with the No. 12 overall defense protecting him. Grier will not have that level of defense watching over him with the Mountaineers. The WVU DL returns zero starters and has combined for one entire sack. Things get better at LB, but depth is a concern. The secondary returns some experience, but only one starter. Where the Hokies do have experience lines up nicely with the inexperience of the Mountaineers. VT returns three starters on the OL, and I believe WVU will be reliant on blitzing schemes to assist their DL with getting pressure. Failure to do so will give the young Hokie QB time to sit back and pick apart the Mountaineers, but bringing pressure will open the screen-pass and running options for the Hokies. The VPI defensive line only returns one starter but sees big Tim Settle in a starting role. The LB corps and secondary are intimidating with all but one of those positions being filled by a returning starter. Last year these same two squads faced six now NFL quarterbacks, and walked away 4-2. The Hokies have what they need on defense to stifle Grier and the WVU offense. I also believe that the VT offense is equipped to take advantage of the inexperienced Mountaineer defense, despite their exotic scheme. The Hokies open the season with a win, VT 27 – WVU 13.
Who knows in their heart who will win the not too coveted Black Diamond (Lump of coal... doesn't that go to the loser? I'll have to check Saint Nicholas and that Krampus creature for the official thoughts on lumps of coal...) I certainly don't have a ton of clues. One, Tech's offense is mostly backups and newbies in the skill positions, and a decent Left side of the O-Line. The Mountainmen come sporting a goose egg in the Defense department with nearly everyone being new, and carrying the voodoo doll of defense a Big XII patch on their jerseys. Tech brings a first rate, experienced defensive line, a pair of shutdown linebackers, and a defensive secondary that can put any player at any position for any situation, and do it differently every tiime. Wesginnya's QB is a Florida cast off, two seasons stale, and a record at the Gators that wasn't much to write notes in class about. My gut tells me that Fuente and Cornelsen have the advantage. Foster has his crew ready, and the only real thing that we have to beat is the FedEx Whammy...31-10 Tech.
This game will come down to quarterback play. Will Grier didn’t blow me away at Florida, but the Mountaineers are known to put up video game points in the Big 12. Josh Jackson is making his first career start in a huge environment. West Virginia also has a true three headed monster at running back. In the end, I think the Hokies’ secondary makes a crucial pick to seal a close game.
Virginia Tech 38 West Virginia 34