On the eve of game day for Virginia Tech and West Virginia, let’s preview the 2017 edition of the Black Diamond rivalry game.
The case for Virginia Tech:
After coming off of a 10-win inaugural campaign, coach Justin Fuente has his concerns about depth and experience, but ultimately has his team primed for a strong 2017 run. Fuente did a good job filling in a bunch of missing pieces on the offense, and they’re ready to go start hitting guys wearing something other than orange or maroon.
Virginia Tech has a defense it can fall back on, even if redshirt-freshman quarterback Josh Jackson comes out with jitters, as he probably will. Tech’s defense looks as solid as any in the program’s recent history, and that’s saying a lot, given the level of the units that defensive coordinator Bud Foster has orchestrated.
The case for West Virginia:
The Mountaineers can extend Tech’s 22-year regular season, neutral-site winless streak if they play up the rivalry element. Obviously, no player on either team has played a game against the Hokies, but WVU can win if the Mountaineers can harken back to their ‘90’s style of physical, fast and dynamic play.
The 3-3-5 defense is confusing and could cause problems for a freshman quarterback. So, with the combination of their Big 12 spread offense and their tricky “D”, the Mountaineers could leave FedEx with the win.
Three to watch for the Hokies
The young receiving corps: Perhaps the biggest concern for the Hokies heading into this game is the inexperience at wideout, and we’ve been talking about all summer. It’s already chaos with a freshman quarterback, so add in just two returning consistent receiving threats, and it could be tough for Tech to find a groove. These guys will be the X-factor.
Tremaine Edmunds: A potential first-round draft pick, Edmunds had a bit of a coming out party late last season. Look for that to carry over into 2017. He’s big, tall and not someone you want to see on the opposite side of the ball. He should make Will Grier’s night a bit more stressful.
Josh Jackson: No surprise here. Jackson is a rookie quarterback taking his first game snaps in a real game. He’ll be in good hands with Fuente calling the plays, though. It’ll be interesting to watch this kid develop throughout the season.
Three to watch for the Mountaineers
Will Grier: The other first-timer QB in this game. Grier is a transfer from Florida, where he had the Gators 6-0 in the beginning of 2015, but was suspended at midseason after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs.
Justin Crawford: After an 1,100-yard campaign in 2016, Crawford received the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year award. He should play a big part in the game on Sunday, although head coach Dana Holgorsen said that as many as six running backs could see time.
Kyzir White: At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, this junior safety can bring the boom. White will probably play a bit of linebacker for the Mountaineers this season, too. He’ll be a guy to watch on Sunday as he tries to slow down Fuente’s offense.
I think the neutral-site drought will end Sunday night. It won’t come easy, though. I’ll take Tech in a sloppy, defensive game. Foster’s unit will be just a bit too stifling for the Mountaineers. Josh Jackson will find his stride late in the first half, and the Hokies will get rolling. Hokies win 28-24 and retain the Black Diamond Trophy for a bit longer.