After a home loss to Purdue and road loss at Rutgers, Virginia Tech heads on the road to Huntington, WV looking to turn things around and get back to .500. Meanwhile, a sold out crowd awaits them at Marshall as the Thundering Herd look to get to 3-0 for the first time since 2020.
Before we get to the picks, check out the rest of our pregame coverage below.
- 5 Things to Watch for Virginia Tech at Marshall
- J.C. Price, CJ McCray Return to Familiar Territory at Marshall
- Da'Quan Felton Stepping Up Amidst WR Injuries
- Hokies Navigating Inexperience at Safety Amidst Injuries
- Brent Pry's Tuesday Injury Updates on Multiple Starters
- Three Hokies Who Should Get More Playing Time
So can the Hokies bounce back and pick up an important road victory for their shrinking bowl hopes or will the Herd make a bowl a near impossibility this year? Here are our picks for the Hokies vs the Thundering Herd.
This has all the makings of a nail-bitter between the Hokies and the Thundering Herd with Tech having their backs against the wall and Marshall looking for a big win in front of a sold out home crowd over a Power 5 opponent. This has all the makings of a tight, four quarter battle that should be entertaining in terms of the drama of this game.
Part of what makes this matchup hard to predict is the fact that Marshall struggled against a not so great FCS team in Albany week 1 and then beat an East Carolina team that might be decent but also may not be very good after losing a lot from a strong 2022 season. A bye week should help them and they do have some big talent with RB Rasheen Ali and DE Owen Porter but there are also a lot of questions and unknowns including with the offensive line that has struggled in run blocking and been fortunate Ali has been able to break some real big plays.
Meanwhile, the Hokies have some clear concerns with the offensive line along with their run defense headlined by safety play. One of the storylines will be which guys are back and who is still out for the Hokies with Jalen Stroman maybe being the guy that Tech could use most given the play at safety last week without him.
Kyron Drones looked solid in his first start and while plenty have talked about the dual-threat capabilities of Marshall's Cam Fancher, I think Tech has the edge in QB play. Additionally, this is not a set the world on fire passing attack either so if Tech can contain Ali which Marshall's run blocking issues should help with despite Ali's immense run talent, this could easily be a fairly low-scoring game.
There's no doubt this will be a tough environment with Marshall having a passionate fan base that absolutely believes the Thundering Herd can pull off the victory over the underdog Hokies (which is a crazy statement to say but reality). However, I think the Hokies can take advantage of Marshall's struggles with mobile QBs along with a rushing attack that's started to use perimeter screens more to great benefit. Combine that with Tech doing enough defensively to slow the Herd down and I have the Hokies leaving Huntington with a victory.
Pick: Virginia Tech 23, Marshall 20
It’s hard to have faith in Virginia Tech to win football games with the current state of their run defense, which has given up 212 yards per game in 2023. It’s much harder to do so when they’re facing an elite Marshall ground game led by a stud running back in Rasheen Ali and an effective dual-threat quarterback in Cam Fancher. Between injuries in the secondary and ineffectiveness up front, I think the Hokies are in for another long day trying to stop the run.
Moreover, Marshall boasts a defense that ranks second in the country in yards per play and only gives up 15 points per game. But, their run defense won’t be as challenging as Rutgers’ was, and they were gashed on the ground by East Carolina’s mobile quarterback. So, if Kyron Drones starts his second consecutive game for Tech, he could see some success on the ground. It also helps that Jaylin Lane should be back to provide a much-needed lift to the passing attack.
But the Hokies still cannot run the football with their tailbacks, and it’s very hard to establish any sort of offensive identity if you can’t get the run game going. Saturday afternoon figures to be another slog in that regard. Considering the injuries and off-the-field issues at quarterback, Tech’s goal should simply be to keep Drones upright for sixty minutes.
Despite an unbeaten record, the Thundering Herd haven’t been the most impressive or dominant team through their first two games with real struggles against the likes of Albany and ECU. But, coming off a bye for a massive national television game against a reeling Hokies squad, this figures to be a perfect spot to get them back on track.
Pick: Marshall 23, Virginia Tech 17
The more I look into this matchup, the more discouraged I get for the Hokies. They badly need a win, but I do not think it comes against Marshall. The Herd excel at stopping both the run and the pass. The Hokies already cannot run the ball on offense and their passing game remains unpolished no matter who is at QB.
The other glaring problem area will be stopping the run. I am interested to see how Tech fairs against Rasheen Ali, who is considered to be one of the best running backs in the nation. He could very well have over 200 yards rushing in this game against the Hokies. Not to mention Cam Fancher, the Herd signal caller, also can run himself. The Hokies have never seemed to do quite well with any kind of dual-threat QB, and that has not changed under Pry.
Call me a pessimist if you will, but I will be pleasantly surprised if the Hokies can pull off a victory as underdogs in Huntington.