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September 21, 2013

Staff Picks: VT vs Marshall

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Another fast-paced team, another opponent from Conference USA. The defense bailed out Virginia Tech at East Carolina, will it come through again for the Hokies against Marshall?

We take our shots at calling what will happen at today's Noon ET kickoff.


Jason Stamm, publisher

It's hard to think of 83 plays a game as slowing down, but that's what Marshall's offense has done this season through three games. That comes after the Herd led the country with 91 plays a game last season.

Yes, this Marshall offense is good and has put up some prolific numbers. But so much of it is the system, just as Texas Tech was known for earlier this millennium. The difference is Virginia Tech's defense has the right system and dynamic athletes to carry it out.

After three games, the Hokies have showed they have one of the best defenses in the country, if not THE best. They rank second in the nation in total defense.

Virginia Tech's offense right now is just good, but they're making progress. And with a defense as unreal as the Hokies' honestly, the offense needs to do just enough. Of course, they'll have to get better on offense when ACC play starts next week.

There shouldn't be much worry about the defense stopping a high-powered offense after the shut-down effort VT showed against East Carolina. The bigger worry comes against Georgia Tech.

Marshall's offense is good enough to put up some points, but it won't be much. It might be just a few more than East Carolina was able to put up. And the offense continues to progress. Against a defense that's just average, this should be a game where it gets going more. This won't be a blowout by any means, but the offense does more for VT and the defense again looks stellar.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27-14


Doug Bowman, senior writer

Virginia Tech's defense is going to end up dominating this game. Marshall runs a similar offense to what East Carolina runs, so I expect a similar defensive end. The Virginia Tech defensive line will be able to get to Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, especially at home, and that will allow the secondary to be extremely opportunistic in the secondary. I think freshman Kendall Fuller gets his first career interception this weekend.

Offensively, I expect the exact same game plan that was used against East Carolina. Trey Edmunds will get around 20 carries no matter how well Marshall is defending the run. With the turnovers I expect the defense to create, look for the Hokies to have some short fields to work with.

On special teams, the key guy is kicker Cody Journell. The Hokies can't afford having him get the field goal yips and all of a sudden a 36-yarder might not be three easy points. His first field goal attempt is going to be a tense one in Lane Stadium.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Cato come out and lead the Herd down the field on the first drive like last week, but then after that they'll likely become stagnant.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 33-7


Mike Stancik, staff writer

Even though Marshall quarterback Cato's comments earlier this week may not have been meant to be bulletin board material, defensive coordinator Bud Foster sure is treating it as such. And making the Hokie defense come into the game with added motivation isn't exactly what any opponent wants to do right now against the country's second-ranked defense.

Marshall is averaging 527.3 yards per game, so there's definitely a possibility that the Thundering Herd could make this a ballgame. But not at Lane Stadium. Not against this defense. For a unit that has allowed a high of 212 yards (Alabama), it's hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall has its way with the Virginia Tech defense.

Marshall does indeed have a formidable defense (252 yards allowed per game, including 67 on the ground), so I don't think this is the week where Virginia Tech puts together a game in which both the passing game and run-game work out. The Thundering Herd are likely to concentrate on stopping one of those aspects, and it's likely to be the same formula as ECU: stuff the run.

This means senior quarterback Logan Thomas will have to throw it around once again, and with another week of improvement with the receivers, he throws for three touchdowns. The defense nabs two more interceptions against Cato, including Brandon Facyson's third straight week with a pick, and the Hokies end up cruising in front of the home crowd.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 31-14




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