The Virginia Tech Hokies are back on ESPN’s Thursday Night Football, and their opponent is an ideal one for the prime-time lights of ESPN. The West Virginia Mountaineers head to Blacksburg for the first time since Oct. 2, 2004, with possession of the coveted Black Diamond Trophy after last season’s narrow win in Morgantown.
We’ve covered the game with our official preview, which includes the odds and how to watch. Our podcast is also out, previewing Thursday’s game.
Now, without further ado, here are our staff predictions.
My thoughts on this game have fluctuated in recent weeks. When I watched the Pitt/WVU opener and then saw the Hokies lose to ODU, I felt hopeless for the Hokies. Then, I saw Virginia Tech play much better the following week without the penalties and turnovers; while WVU blew a lead and lost to Kansas in Morgantown, I felt better.
Now, I am somewhere in between.
WVU’s offense is legit. If I had to guess, it’s the best the Hokies will face all season. The Mountaineers have a legit college QB and three stud receivers. Add in freshman C.J. Donaldson, a positionless star, and West Virginia is scary on offense.
I look at this as strength [WVU offense] vs. strength [Virginia Tech defense]. I am concerned about how much Tech’s defense has been tested through three weeks. I thought BC was a good test, but I am not sure anymore.
The Hokies need this game in a big way. For many reasons. I think it goes down to the wire and Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells makes enough plays in the passing game and Keshawn King goes over 100 yards to propel the Hokies to a win.
Hokies 27, Mountaineers 24
This is one of the most difficult evaluations so far. If I were a betting man, I’d take Tech and the Points. But there is just no telling, even the wise guys in the Desert Southwest are pushing and pulling with numbers hovering around 1.5 to 3 all favoring the Mountaineers, which given the venue and the situation is nearly a push. The Over/Under has stayed in the low 50s range and with a spread that small the analysis is still pushing a tight game. It’s the Hokies’ strength against the West Virginia strength (Defense vs. Offense) we aren’t in a Classical Greek Phalanx but it’s looking a whole lot like Epaminondas’s strength inversion tactic at the battle of Leuctra to defeat the Spartans. There were lots of people betting on Sparta back then, too.
I see either a low-grade shootout that pushes the over, but maintains the spread, or Tech’s just to out classed and the WVU Big XII offense just puts too much up for the struggling Hokie Offense to answer back. I am going to “theoretically” take that bet and hope for the Hokies to nab one at the end even though my gut tells me different. 31-28 Hokies
The West Virginia Mountaineers are the most complete and capable team the Hokies have seen this season. Statistically they are the best offense and defense the Virginia Tech Hokies have faced. VT’s defense has commendable stats, on paper, but have been earned against woeful offenses during their first three games. ODU has 863 total offensive yards, good for No. 120 in the FBS, while Boston College has earned 898 (No. 114). Wofford has one of the worst offenses in the FCS, averaging 2.33 entire points per game. The Mountaineers sit at No. 14, averaging 513 YPG. As far as the bland Fighting Gobbler offense is concerned, it is a similar story, in that they haven’t faced particularly robust defenses. The Monarchs clock in with the No. 119 defense, allowing an average of 459-yards per game. Boston College is in at No. 42 with 328 YPG. WVU’s defense is actually just above BC’s with an average of 327.7 YPG, and that is after facing the capable offenses of Pitt and a surprising Kansas. WVU’s QB, JT Daniels, is a former five-star, originally recruited to USC before he transferred to Georgia and beat Stetson Bennett for the starting gig, last season. Bennett got his shot because Daniels had a nagging injury flare up and had to sit. With no chance of regaining the starting gig, with the Bulldogs, he transferred to West Virginia. Daniels is experienced, talented, and embodies a significant threat. CJ Donaldson and Tony Mathis Jr. represent a comprehensively capable rushing attack. Especially Donaldson, who is big (240 pounds), fast, and averages 9.4-yards per carry. Yikes. Bryce Ford-Wheaton (296-yards, four TDs, 12.3 YPC), Sam James (194 yards, one TD, 17.6 YPC), and Kaden Prather (151-yards, one TD, 10.8 YPC) head a stout receiving corps. Through the first three games the Hokies are largely untested, especially with the reality of an unexpectedly poor Boston College team. For the Hokies to have a shot they must establish offensive capability that has yet to be demonstrated. Sustained and lengthy drives that end in points and keep Daniels and the Mountaineer offense off the field are a must. The Hokies have not shown any indication that they can keep up in a shootout. If WVU gets into an offensive rhythm the game could get ugly early. Multiple turnovers are a likely VT death sentence as is any special teams’ catastrophes. The sold-out crowd, at Lane, on a chilly Thursday night will be electric and there is magic to be had in such an atmosphere. I hope that sorcery helps the Hokies, and they pull the upset. I welcome the hate-mail, if I am wrong, but I expect the Hokies are still two seasons away from being able to overcome a team like West Virginia. Sadly, I must disagree with my fellow contributors.
42-28, West Virginia Mountaineers