Well, you didn't think you'd be seeing us again, eh?
After a miraculous 34-31 overtime win against the 'Hoos cemented a decade and a half of Commonwealth Cup dominance, we're back for another week of Halfwits with the Hokies on the verge of bowl eligibility.
Will it happen? Who knows, but 5-6 with a win over UVA certainly beats 4-7 with 5 straight losses to end the year.
Brian's Record this Year (+Last Week Only) 46-47-2 (5-4)
Joey's Record this Year (+Last Week Only) 50-44-1 (4-5)
On to the lines!
True/False: Tre Turner leads the team in receiving yards
Brian: False. Turner's been such a revelation over the last few games, I'd almost forgotten what a true game breaking receiver felt like in this offense (no shots at Cam Phillips, but he was banged up most of last season). But you know who else notices the kind of difference the freshman has made? Opposing coaching staffs, particularly Marshall's.
I bet the kid gets a little extra attention, opening the field for Damon Hazelton to have a big time day should he return healthy.
(By the way, Turner and Dax Hollifield? Big hits to the "stars don't matter" crowd. They may not always matter, but there's a reason that Turner, Hollifield, Ty Garbutt, and Dalton Keene are Tech's best young players. They simply had a head start over other players due to their talent.)
Joey: I desperately want to take Turner here. I mean, how could you not?
But Brian's right. There's just too many options at wideout not to take the field. Whether or not Hazelton returns healthy seems like a crapshoot with how tight-lipped this staff is, but between Grimsley, Kumah, and the second coming of Rob Gronkowski (cough, Dalton Keene), I'll take false.
Over/Under: 0.5 snaps by a QB not named Ryan Willis
Brian: It seems like this goes under, right? Quincy Patterson hasn't seen a snap since his bewildering insertion into the game against Pittsburgh. It seems highly unlikely that we see Josh Jackson play again this season (is he getting a medical redshirt?), and poor Hendon Hooker seems glued to the pine no matter how effective the other two guys are.
I don't envy Fuente and whoever the offensive coordinator is in 2019 (okay fine, Cornelsen). On one hand, they have Jackson—an older QB who makes (most of) the right reads in both the run and pass game, but has neither the speed nor the arm to truly worry a defense. On the other hand, they have Willis, who's practically Jackson's inverse. He's athletic enough and has the ability to push things vertically. But his reads are iffy at their best, and the staff doesn't seem to trust him (in Fuente's presser after UVA, he threw out a lot of "well, I don't know what Ryan saw there, but...")
And on their third, mutant hand, they have either Patterson or Hooker. Both of which I would guess are the preferred options for the kind of offense Fuente likes, but will have to earn the spot to unseat two upperclassmen.
And right now? None of the four seem like a great choice, in their own special way.
Joey: Right or wrong, I still have the vision of Hendon Hooker streaking down the East sideline for a 69-yard score against William and Mary firmly entrenched in my brain. And right or wrong, I think the QB run game may be a bit more dangerous than usual against a solid but perhaps athletically limited Marshall defense.
Does it mean Cornelsen rolls the dice and puts Quincy or Hooker on the field for the first time since Pitt? Probably not.
Over/Under: 375 total yards for the Marshall offense
Brian: The Herd average 378 yards a game, just a few less than UVA. The fact that most of their games have come against Conference USA opponents should make Tech fans feel easier, but it probably won't.
Well how about this: outside of their game against UTSA (3-9 on the season), Marshall hasn't cracked over 335 yards of total offense since mid-October. They've won a lot, but it hasn't been because of their scoring prowess. I'll take the under.
(Aaaaaand I already hate that pick. It took exactly five seconds to doubt it.)
Joey: Let's be honest: I don't watch a lot of Conference USA football (read, any Conference USA football). I have, however, done some boots-on-the-ground reporting on the Thundering Herd in the spirit of comprehensive journalistic research.
It was Labor Day weekend — back when Tech fans thought they had a football team — and my friends and I were piling into an Uber in Tallahassee to head downtown for the night. Recognizing our maroon and orange gear, the Uber driver said something to the effect of, 'Ah damn, you guys in for a long night."
Still sober, I playfully responded that the 'Noles would probably win but at least we didn't have to live in the sun-scorched pit of misery that is Florida all year.
In a shocking turn of events, the Uber driver tells us that he's a West Virginia boy, Marshall Football Class of [insert somewhat recent class here] (OK, I wasn't totally sober). Remembering the rain game of 2013, we asked if he ever played against Tech.
"Yep, I picked off Logan Thomas that day."
/Bets house on Florida State.
OK, so that story has little to do with Marshall's offense, but it's literally the only thing I know about the Herd. Based on the stats Brian rattled off above (and the 324 yards Marshall recorded against NC State), I'll go under.
P.S. Monterius Lovett, if you're reading this (you're not), rest assured that you got 5 stars.
Clemson -26.5 vs. Pitt
Brian: I'm just going to leave this here:
Since 2002 Virginia Tech, Pitt's played four top-two teams while unranked. Pitt's won all four, including one against Clemson's title team https://t.co/zEzyuJA0Gm— College Football by SB Nation 🏈 (@SBNationCFB) November 28, 2018
Now, I don't buy the hype. But it's a half-interesting stat attributed to a game in desperate need of some sort of attention, because no one wants to watch this thing after Alabama and Georgia slug it out.
Pitt had a nice little run against mostly awful Coastal opponents. They dominated Tech and Wake, won shootouts against Duke and Syracuse, and steamrolled Virginia. But outside of their close loss to Notre Dame, let's look at how the Panthers performed against teams with talent across their roster:
vs Penn State (loss 51-6)
@ UCF (loss 45-14)
@ Miami (loss 24-3)
Moral of those stories? Pitt struggles against athletic defenses and offenses that can beat them on the outside. Clemson will do that. Will they win by 27? That seems just a little high to me.
I'll probably regret it, but give me the Panthers +26.5
Joey: Brian's on the money here until the pick. Pitt is one of those teams that needs to physically dominate to have a chance to win, and they have absolutely zero chance of winning at the line of scrimmage against the Brent Venables freak show at defensive line.
Clemson's offense won't be superhuman a la Louisville, but they should get into the low 40's, and that'll be plenty for the Tigers to cover the number.
Oklahoma -7.5 vs. Texas
Brian: Don't love this game, wouldn't bet it. But it seems like the Sooners are peaking at the right time, and the Longhorns haven't played great since they beat Oklahoma in Dallas (games against Baylor, Texas Tech, and Kansas were all struggles).
And yes, OU's defense is abjectly awful. But can Sam Ehlinger keep up with Kyler Murray? He did it once, but I doubt he can do it again. And if Oklahoma winning means keeping Ohio State/Urban Meyer/annoying Buckeye fans out of the playoff? I'll take them -7.5 and root for it to happen.
Joey: I also hate this game, and would lean towards the over. A touchdown-plus line seems way too high — don't forget, Texas handed Oklahoma their sole loss back in October— which for gambling purposes probably means the Sooners win by 100.
Knowing that I'm probably on the wrong side, -7.5 for a defense as porous as Oklahoma's screams backdoor cover, so I'll take Texas to pull within a score late.
Ok. Cool. Hook 'Em.
Alabama -13 vs. Georgia
Brian: Borderline lock for me. Alabama is amazing, but what's the best offense they've faced this season? Texas A&M? Mississippi State? It can't be (gulp) LSU or Auburn, right? The fact that they're in the conversation tells you all you need to know about the lack of firepower Bama's faced so far.
I don't think they'll win, but Georgia's more equipped than anyone else in the country to give the Tide a run for their money. Give me the Dawgs +13 and Bama to win by six.
Joey: This is another one where I'm undoubtedly on the wrong side, but I agree with Brian.
Alabama's appeared slightly mortal of late, staying close early with The Citadel and Auburn and not eclipsing 30 points against a pair of strong SEC defenses (LSU & Mississippi State).
Did they win all four of those games by at least 24 points? Well, of course, it's Alabama.
But Georgia's a different animal, and while they're down a bit compared to last year, I think they'll stay within 13. Go Dawgs.
The Joey Coogan Memorial "Navy Hits the Over" Lock of the Week.
Brian: Washington is very talented. Utah won nine games by feasting on an awful Pac-12 South, struggled with a bad BYU team last week, and has...one?...good win. The Utes are also without their starting quarterback and running back, yet the Huskies are favored by just 5.5 at Levi's Stadium? I think they win by two touchdowns.
Joey: While Navy preps for the annual Army/Navy game next week (the best football spectacle of the year, don't @ me, get off my lawn), I'm forced to look elsewhere for this week's lock.
And ironically enough, I love NC State -23 against a soon-to-be 3-9 ECU team.
Screw you, crazy ECU lady.
Virginia Tech-Marshall Over/Under: 51
Brian: Marshall's going to score more than this line suggests, and the Hokies will have to put up at least 27 to win. Even though the Herd's offense struggles and their defense seems pretty air tight, I'll take the over.
Joey: Tech's hit three straight overs in this column*, and this one should be an easy fourth.
*The Miami total ended up getting to 53 after publishing (and Tech lost 38-14) in yet another edition of "Vegas Is Really Good at Their Job".
Spread: Virginia Tech -4
Brian: I think the Herd smell blood. There'll be a lot of green in Lane Stadium on Saturday, and I don't know where the Hokies' heads are after the emotional and miraculous win over UVA. It would be typical of a young team to come out flat after such a great win the week before, and it's on Fuente to make sure they're not only prepared, but fired up.
And even if they're fired up, I'm still not convinced. I have a bad feeling about this one, especially with everyone seeming to hedge with the recency bias of "as long as we have the Commonwealth Cup, I don't care about the bowl streak." Both my head and my gut say Marshall wins this one, 31-27.
Joey: This has all the makings of a letdown game, and Marshall's a good football team. Tech may squeak out another miracle victory, but I think the Herd keep it uncomfortably close (and probably win).
Disclaimer: Some of these are real betting lines, but many of them are fake and none of this is real advice that should be taken seriously.