Sons of Game Picks: Week 3 - #15 Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia University
The Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy
This is one game on the schedule where the stage does not have to be set.
WVU hates Tech, Tech hates WVU, and it has been that way for decades.
This rivalry has cooled off drastically since Tech left the Big East for the ACC back in 2004. So much so that the Hokies have not been back to Morgantown since 2005. That game saw the #3 Hokies beat the Mountaineers 34-17 on their way to another 10-win season.
Since then, Tech and WVU have only met one other time which was back in 2017 at a sold-out FedEx Field where Tech eked out a win by a TD 31-24.
This rivalry has seen many incredible moments, from Shayne Graham's game-winning field goal to keep Tech's National Championship hopes alive to Marcus Vick flipping the bird to the Mountaineer crowd. While recent fans and players may not comprehend just how much hate used to be in this rivalry, just know that all the stories you hear are true.
Burning couches, slashed tires, thrown batteries and coins... it's all true. Taking your helmet off on the Tech sideline in Morgantown is a risky decision that could lead to a forehead bruise from a Duracell. Hopefully, a noon kickoff should slow down any of the off-field antics.
Now to the actual game, Vegas believes it will be a moderately even match-up. Tech goes into Morgantown as 2.5 point underdogs. I think that is about accurate. The Tech offense has been sluggish, while the defense has been great. On the flipside, WVU lost to Maryland, but then dropped 66 points on Long Island University.
This game is likely to be a close boxing match that comes down to turnovers and special teams plays. Talent only gets you so far in a hostile environment like this. And for most Tech players, this will be their first true road game of their career. And what a one to start off with.
Here is how we see the game going.
Adam Rothe - WVU - 28-21
I have no idea what to expect from either team this game. We have learned a little bit about the Hokies especially on the defensive side of the ball, but this past week against MTSU, there wasn't a whole lot of information that could be gathered from that game. Tech came out sluggish on offense and was only holding a seven point lead at halftime, but in the second half they turned it on and pulled away as expected. However, the play calling remained very conservative from OC Brad Cornelsen with barely any deep shots down the field against a team the Hokies were highly favored to beat.
Then there's West Virginia. They lost to Maryland in week 1, but then they shut out and hung 66 points on poor Long Island University this past week. I think the Hokies and the Mountaineers are a moderately even matchup. I could see this game going either way by a touchdown or field goal. The one thing on WVU's side is that this is in Morgantown, which will be an added boost with thousands of fans frothing at the mouth to take back the Black Diamond Trophy from Tech. I'm not sure how many of the actual student-athletes will care about the rivalry considering most of them were in diapers when the rivalry was at the peak of its powers. All I know is that the WVU fans who remember the days of throwing batteries at Tech players on the sidelines and slashing the tires of Tech fans who came to Morgantown will definitely get up for this one. Solely on atmosphere alone, I give the edge to WVU by a touchdown. Thankfully this game is at noon to minimalize the pre-game shenanigans between fan bases.
Pat Rouleau - WVU - 24-23
I fully expect this game to come down to the last five minutes and WVU kicks a field goal to take the win with very little time left on the clock. It is very exciting to watch what the crowd inside Milan Puskar Stadium is like and hope this game comes down to the wire like the matchup in 2017 at FedEx Field.
Grant Mitchell - Virginia Tech - 21-14
I have said it since the final whistle in the MTSU game: Virginia Tech could win by 20 or they could lose by 20, and I would not be surprised either way. Brad Cornelsen called a frustratingly conservative game last week and it is very clear what fans should expect heading into the Black Diamond Rivalry. WVU's defensive weakness is that they like to take risks and could be susceptible to the big play, which should set up Tayvion Robinson and Tre Turner to be the players to watch, though the coaching staff must trust Braxton Burmeister enough to air the ball out. Defensively, WVU will struggle against Tech's front line, given that they are only averaging 3.2 yards per carry after two games, one of which was a 66-0 victory. All in all, I think this will be a one possession game that WVU wins if they go up early and that Tech will win if they can hold a lead or tie the entire time; although the margin for error is small, I think it will be the latter, and the Hokies will get to 3-0.
Evan Norris - Virginia Tech - 27-17
After the game on Saturday, I didn't feel changed with my view of the Hokies. It had seemed that the Hokies played down to an inferior MTSU team to get by another week and to allow some of the backups to get some playing time. It was a pretty effortless game if you look at the box score. Fuente and company accomplished their goal of getting experience for the whole depth chart and securing a solid home win by three scores. Although the Hokies did win, they did lose a huge piece on the offense with All-ACC TE James Mitchell. This is a huge loss for the offense, as Mitchell was extremely versatile for both the passing game and blocking game.
However, this is a new week against a very familiar opponent in West Virginia. The Mountaineers of Morgantown have shown the world about nothing in terms of the true team they are. And you could easily say the same for the Hokies. But when I go back and view the two teams in action going into this weekend, I find myself liking the Hokies a lot more. Not only can the Hokies both pass and run the ball effectively, but their defense can hold their own against high-scoring opponents. Also, the combination of the Hokie's past two games (UNC and MTSU) versus West Virginia's last two (Maryland and Long Island) only shows the scale of competition the rivals have faced. I like the Hokies to get out in front early and to hold the game down to walk out of Morgantown with the Black Diamond Trophy once again.
Justin Cates - Virginia Tech - 24-10
I’m not a fan of John Denver and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” has been stuck in my head all week putting my family and I on edge. That the song is actually written about Virginia does little to ease this general annoyance. The great irony of the Tech-WVU rivalry is of course that Hokies and Mountaineers have far more in common than say, Hokies and Cavaliers. This may not be evident when the hitting starts and the batteries take flight.
West Virginia is a passing team with an unusual defensive alignment which can and likely will sow confusion for a Hokie offense still looking to hit its stride. That likely won’t last for long though. WVU was gouged on the ground and through the air against Maryland and they turned the ball over four times. The pass first tendency plays to Tech’s strength on defense and everyone has to be licking their chops about the potential turnovers. Expect a fun game and a Hokie win.
Sam Jessee - Virginia Tech - 28-13
My inhibitions on overhyping Virginia Tech are being quelled by my firm belief that West Virginia is a very mediocre Power 5 football team. The daunted Mountaineers defense, which lost almost every depth piece in the offseason, gave up 30 to Maryland in a bad loss (even with a Maryland settling for 2 field goals in the red zone and missing another). Truthfully, Maryland torched the Mountaineer DB's all day for 332 passing yards and were still able to rush for another 164. To be fair, Maryland has this knack for big offensive performances, but defensively the Terrapins are atrocious. That's where the real worry comes in. The Mountaineers only managed 73 rushing yards on true running plays (QB Jarret Doege was sacked 4 times for -25 yards) with a long of just 14 yards. Doege was careless with the ball on multiple occasions and showed no ability to handle pressure.
I think that's what this game boils down to.
Virginia Tech can move the ball and control the clock on West Virginia, all while the pass rush can pin their ears back and have a major impact on this game. Leddie Brown is the only real playmaker on the Mountaineer offense, and Maryland was able to keep him under wraps with half the talent on defense that the Hokies have. Similar to the UNC game, Virginia Tech matches up well with West Virginia. I don't think the game will be as close as the score indicates. Hokies win comfortably.
Mike McDaniel - Virginia Tech - 23-20
On paper, Virginia Tech has the better team. I like Virginia Tech's defense more than West Virginia's, as the Mountaineers have lost a good bit of talent off of the roster last year, when West Virginia had the best defense in the Big 12. The Hokies' defense has been solid, and the offense has been up-and-down. It's certainly going to be a hectic environment in Morgantown, but I believe that if Tech's defense plays like it did in the first two games of the season, the Hokies will have a great chance to win if they're able to score 25 points or more. I think Tech wins a close one here, because I can't in good conscience pick a West Virginia team that lost to a Maryland team two weeks ago that is unlikely to make a bowl game this season. If the Hokies win the turnover battle and keep their wits about them, I think there's potential for Tech to win this game by a touchdown or more...we'll see.
Grayson Wimbish - Virginia Tech - 27-24
I said it at the beginning of this year prior to the UNC game - if there was one of the "Big 4" games I actually felt good about, it was West Virginia. Look, WVU is a fast team. They have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Winston Wright Jr. is quite literally public enemy #1. But we've seen what Virginia Tech's defense looks like as well. Our linebackers and defensive backs swarm to the ball like a hornets nest. The loss of Jimmy Mitchell is monumental on the Hokies' offense, so the next man up had better be ready to go. I think the environment has the potential to rile the Hokies up more than it would negatively affect any other team coming into Morgantown. I hope the coaching staff sat the players down and showed them a comprehensive history of why they should all hate the Mountaineers. If Burmeister gets comfortable and Cornelsen opens it up, I think the Hokies win the football game. I admire the optimism of anyone who thinks this will be a blowout victory. Like the last time these two teams met, expect it to go down to the wire.
Konnor Kilgore - Virginia Tech - 24-21
To me, this game has "defensive rock fight" written all over it. I like our chances of disrupting Jarret Doege's day and getting pressure on him to disrupt the WVU passing game. I'm also nervous about going into a hostile Morgantown environment with an already shaky passing attack that now does not include James Mitchell. I think these two teams are very evenly matched, which will result in a very intense 60 minutes. I think Tech's defense comes up clutch with a big stop late in the 4th quarter, which sets the stage for Tech to kick a game winning field goal. Morgantown burns itself down once again.