For the first time in almost two decades, the Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy returns to Blacksburg for a Thursday night showdown inside Lane Stadium between Virginia Tech and West Virginia. WVU and their head coach Neal Brown have loads of pressure on themselves to win this one with Brown's seat warming after a 1-2 start while this would be a big boost for year 1 of Brent Pry's rebuild at Virginia Tech.
So will the Hokies bring the Black Diamond Trophy back to Blacksburg to stay or WVU still have it on their way home to Morgantown? Here's our picks for the Hokies against the Mountaineers.
I've been meaning towards West Virginia all week but after doing some more digging, I've flipped my pick to the Hokies albeit in a really close one and here's why.
First, Grant Wells is showing signs of finding his rhythm, and the WVU pass defense may be an ideal matchup for him especially since they haven't had a single interception in 3 games. Jadan Blue seems to have found his stride while Christian Moss is emerging as another option and Kaleb Smith appears to be healthy.
Additionally, a healthy Keshawn King should boost Tech's running game significantly and help Tech have some longer drives which could be crucial for getting Tech's defense extra rest against a talented WVU offense. That Mountaineer offense has been very good so far but Tech's defense has been elite albeit against weak competition. Even if they aren't a great defense, there's no doubt that they are a good one that may bend at times but has stalled plenty of teams out into kicking field goals instead of scoring touchdowns.
Tech also has the benefit of playing this game at home on a Thursday night in front of a sold out Lane Stadium which should be a major boost in the fourth quarter or what seems likely to be a tight game. It also could cause havoc for a WVU team that ranks outside the top 100 in fewest penalties this season, not exactly an ideal thing when playing a top rival on the road.
Am I confident in this pick? No but I'm going with my heart and gut, and taking the Hokies in a nail-bitter in a game that I hope we see way more often than the 0 future matchups currently on the schedule.
Pick: Virginia Tech 24, West Virginia 23
The West Virginia Mountaineers come to Lane tonight for a Thursday night battle with the Hokies. They will be up against what should be a tough atmosphere for their high-powered offense. Led by Georgia transfer, QB JT Daniels, who has thrown for 753 yards (251 yards/game) and 6 touchdowns through three games, this offense can put up points in a hurry (averaging 46 pts/game). Along with Daniels, they have a rushing attack and a pass game that includes multiple guys the Hokies need to game plan for in running backs CJ Donaldson and Tony Mathis Jr, and wideouts Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James.
The Hokies’ defense (12.3 pts/game) will face its first true test of the year. Trying to stop this kind of Air-Raid style of offense that the Mountaineers run will be no easy task. The West Virginia offense spreads defenses out 3-4 wide receivers wide, which will force the Hokie secondary to be on top of their game.
What will decide this game for me is can the Hokie offense do enough to take advantage of this West Virginia defense? They gave up close to 400 yards of total offense to both Pitt and Kansas. Grant Wells and the Hokie receivers have to step up and do damage against an inexperienced secondary for the Mountaineers, while Keshawn King and Jalen Holston lead the run game to keep their linebackers honest.
I would love to pick the Hokies in this fun and exciting Thursday night rivalry showdown for the Black Diamond trophy, but I will have to go with the Mountaineers in this one. It is hard to see Wells and this offense being able to score enough and continually put the defense in plus situations to defend this formidable WVU offense. I will take the Mountaineers in this one, and I am holding out hope that this is not a blowout.
Pick: West Virginia 34, Virginia Tech 24
The Battle for the Black Diamond Trophy has always been one of the more under-the-radar rivalries in all of college football. The passion, hatred and tradition certainly can stack up as one of the fiercest in the entirety of the sport. So shouldn’t Virginia Tech (2-1) and West Virginia (1-2) be playing each and every season? Well, that’s a story for another day.
The history that surrounds this coveted matchup is a tough one to match. How tough? So much so that both fan bases ooze out with enthusiasm each time these two schools face off on the gridiron.
1999 with Shayne Graham come to mind?
How about the 35-0 demolition back in 2001? You certainly can’t forget about the 2017 FedEx Field game, either, a contest in which the Hokies got 235 yards in the air from Josh Jackson en route to a 31-24 victory on Labor Day weekend.
There’s been some fun ones for sure.
For this Virginia Tech team in particular, though, last season is the one that stands out. Tasked with a first and goal at the three-yard line with four cracks at the end zone for a go-ahead score, Tech simply couldn’t punch it in, falling in Morgantown, 27-21, and offering the Black Diamond Trophy back to the Mountaineers for the first time since 2003.
Do they have the potential to bring it back to Blacksburg for the foreseeable future with another hiatus in the series on-deck for these two squads? Absolutely. But I’ll pick otherwise.
Though the Hokies defensively continue to prove they can compete at a high caliber level week in and week out, this West Virginia team just presents a whole new type of challenge.
With the likes of JT Daniels, CJ Donaldson and Bryce Ford-Wheaton currently at the helm, the Mountaineers have averaged a whopping 46 points per game, and have certainly proved that they can compete with anyone nationally on the offensive side of the ball.
Defensively, well, that’s the issue for fourth-year head coach Neil Brown’s squad.
And while this could be a good opportunity for this Tech offense to continue to take a step forward after showing flashes the past couple of weeks, no Malachi Thomas may still be too big a loss for the Hokies to overcome.
Tech’s defense will hold their own. But ultimately, West Virginia will flat out outscore Virginia Tech, taking the Black Diamond Trophy back to Morgantown after a second-straight victory over the maroon and orange.
Pick: West Virginia 30, Virginia Tech 20
What a time to be alive in Blacksburg. For the first time since 2004, the West Virginia Mountaineers (1-2) come to Lane Stadium to face the Virginia Tech Hokies (2-1).
In 2021, West Virginia came away with the Black Diamond Trophy, but the Mountaineers have not been off to a stellar start in 2022, losing a rivalry game to Pitt, and a conference game to Kansas.
The Hokies and Mountaineers couldn’t be more different though, as WVU has struggled primarily on the defensive end, giving up 33 points per game, while Tech has allowed a mere 12.33 per game. Nonetheless, West Virginia has been a force on the offensive side of the ball, scoring 30+ in each of their first three games.
This game will ultimately come down to the Hokies ability to put points on the board, as the stellar defense may not be able to shut down former five-star quarterback J.T. Daniels. The pressure will certainly be on for Grant Wells and the Hokie offense.