Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Virginia Tech Hokies Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Marshall Thundering Herd (1-0, 0-0 ATS) at No. 14 Virginia Tech Hokies (0-1, 0-1 ATS) Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, V.A., Saturday September 9th, 1:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Marshall +19/Virginia Tech -19
Over/Under: 44.5 (up from opening total of 41)

The no. 14 Virginia Tech Hokies had a lot of hype heading into the 2009 season, but could not overcome a tough Alabama Crimson Tide team in opening week. The Hokies will now attempt to rebound and get the ship headed back in the right direction before conference play begins. The Hokies will have the luxury of hosting the Marshall Thundering Herd this Saturday afternoon. Marshall is coming off a 31-28 victory of Southern Illinois and will be big underdogs when they enter a hostile environment in Blacksburg this weekend.

Virginia Tech is an extremely talented team who has a lot of upside. However, the loss of Darren Evans before the season may have played a bigger factor in their loss to Alabama as most would give credit. The Hokies strength heading into the season was the running game. Virginia Tech rushed for 175 yards per game last season as one of the better ground attacks in the land. However, the Hokies managed just 64 yards on the ground in their defeat to the Crimson Tide and the elusive threat of Tyrod Taylor was sacked an 5 times to add more concern on the offensive side of the ball. The lack of success on the ground raises a lot of questions surrounding the Virginia Tech offense.

Of course the Hokies were up against one of the premier defenses in the country. Still, it was apparent the Hokies did not establish a ground game like they were expected. Taylor failed to establish a passing game which was also a big concern. Taylor is the key to the offenses success now that Evans is gone. Taylor must be able to add some threat to ground attack with his extreme quickness and more importantly must use his arm to keep defenses true to the passing game so the running game can excel. Virginia Tech only totaled 155 total yards of offense last weekend, but hopefully that can change against a more vulnerable defense this weekend. The Hokies must get the offense rolling before ACC plays kick starts. Their defense is plenty good to win games, but it will be the offense that is able to grab them their 2nd straight conference title.

Marshall provided a big air attack in their win over Southern Illinois last weekend. Brian Anderson completed 27 of 36 passes for over 300 yards in the victory. Chuck Walter and Cody Slate both caught at least 9 balls for over 100 yards to add to the passing threat. However, the Thundering Herd will be facing one of the most dynamic defenses in America this weekend. The Hokies pass defense ranked in the top 15 in the country allowing just 175 yards last year and they are again a talented bunch. Anderson will have a tough time piercing the secondary, but expect plenty of passes as the Marshall offense will attempt to win the game through the air.

The Marshall defense is an area of the team that has a lot of upside. The front four and most of the defense is all returning starters. They were not necessarily impressive last season, but expected to be an improved bunch. LB Mario Harvey is the heart of the defense and a solid football player who led the team with 107 tackles last year. The Thundering Herd main objective will be focusing on the Hokies ground game. If Marshall can stop the run game and make Taylor beat them with his arm it may be the chance they need to make. After all, Taylor is yet to have breakout game through the air. Still, stopping the run game will be a tough task in itself but rather must be the priority.

Jay’s Pick - You better believe the Hokies are going to be fired up after dropping that last game to Bama. Expect them to absolutely shut down “the herd” and pour it on. Take Virginia Tech -19