Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

June 18, 2014

College football: VT-OSU highlight week #2

BLUEFIELD — One week after the college football season in the region begins with West Virginia facing a Top 5 — or better — team in Alabama, it will be Virginia Tech’s turn to steal the spotlight.

Waiting for the Hokies will be Ohio State in Columbus, which is expected to be ranked at least in the Top 10, and is definitely considered a threat to complete for a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.

The rest of the Week 2 slate include four schools playing FCS foes, including FCS national runner-up Towson at West Virginia, schedule replacement Rhode Island at Marshall and Virginia facing Mike London's former club, Richmond.

Bluefield College will also play an FCS foe at Presbyterian in South Carolina, while Concord will open its season by hosting Mountain East Conference compatriot Glenville State.

This is the second of 12 installments taking a brief look at each week of the upcoming college football season.

 While Virginia Tech will have played William & Mary in its opener, the Buckeyes opens with the triple-option attack from Navy, which could be more difficult to decipher than whatever the Hokies can devise.

 Ohio State hadn’t lost in nearly two years under Urban Meyer until the Buckeyes were beaten by Michigan State in the Big 12 championship game, and later fell to Clemson in the Orange Bowl.

 Braxton Miller and Co. promise to be plenty potent, and the Hokies must travel to Ohio State for an 8 p.m. slated to be televised by ESPN.

 Miller is, once again, a Heisman Trophy candidate, having thrown for 2,094 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while running for another 1,068 yards and 12 more scores.

 Ohio State does have offensive questions to answer, but Virginia Tech will be inexperienced on defense, except in the secondary, so the Buckeyes might have to go to the ground against Bud Foster’s defense.

 Defensively, the Buckeyes will be solid, and will try to make it difficult for Virginia Tech, which will still be trying to break in a new quarterback, several linemen and new personnel at running back.

 Ohio State will visit Lane Stadium in 2015, but this one will belong to the Buckeyes.

 Kudos to Virginia Tech for playing non-conference foes like this.

 Prediction: Ohio State (Virginia Tech drops to 1-1).

 Much has been made about Marshall possibly going undefeated this season, and this could be the reason why.

 Louisville had been a Week 2 opponent, but when Notre Dame joined the ACC on a partial basis, the Cardinals had to drop the Herd.

 That left Marshall digging, and they came up with Rhode Island, which will open its season in Huntington, while the Herd will have already played Miami (Ohio), which was winless last season.

 Rhode Island was a little better last year, but 3-9 still shouldn’t scare the Herd. Neither will the defense. The Rams, who have endured 12 straight losing seasons, dropped their last four games and six of their last seven contests, allowing 31, 59, 35, 66, 45 and 41 points.

 Jim Fleming, who was 21-1 in his last coaching stint over a two-year span at Sacred Heart in 2000-01, is the new coach of the Rams.

 According to at least one preseason publication, Marshall's schedule is the fourth easiest among FBS programs in the nation. Games like this are why.

 Getting the Marshall fan base to the Joan could be an issue this season. The Herd can thank Notre Dame for this one, no Louisville, few fans in the seats.

 Prediction: Marshall (2-0).

 West Virginia will follow what is expected to be a loss to Alabama by hosting the Tigers, who advanced to the FCS championship game last season, falling to North Dakota State, but still finishing 13-3. That included a 33-18 win over Connecticut from the AAC.

 The Mountaineers are 14-1 in their last 15 home openers, winning the last 10 by 27 points a game. That includes a close call in 2013, a seven-point win over William & Mary.

 West Virginia should be victorious, but will need to answer its quarterback questions, which could be difficult against the Crimson Tide. The defense should be much improved, while the offense might have little choice, but to run the football.

 Losing games like this could make Dana Holgorsen's place on the hot seat much warmer, but don't look for the Tigers to prevail in this one.

 Don't get on the Mountaineers for having Towson their schedule. The same publication that had Marshall's schedule being so easy selected West Virginia's as the fourth toughest in America.

 They certainly can't afford to lose this one, and they won't.

 Prediction: West Virginia (1-1).

 Concord will finally get to open its season a week later than everyone else in the region, facing a Mountain East foe right out of the gate.

 These clubs last met in 2012, with the Mountain Lions prevailing 14-9 in what was homecoming in Athens.

 Concord was hit hard by graduation, especially on defense, with the departures of Jake Lilly, Davon Marion and Riyahd Richardson from a club that finished 8-3 last season.

 The Mountain Lions do return quarterback Brian Novak, who threw for 1,556 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Patrick Thompson, a transfer from Wake Forest, will provide competition in the fall.

 Glenville State was 6-5 in 2013, but did win four of its last five games, with the lone loss coming to MEC champion Shepherd.

 No team likes to start the season with a conference game, but the Mountain Lions were dealt that particular fate. This will be close to the end, but go with Concord in a squeaker.

 Prediction: Concord (1-0).

 It doesn't get any easier for Bluefield College, which could be facing its 24th straight defeat if the Rams fall short on the week's first Thursday night against Pikeville.

 Presbyterian could be Bluefield's 'money' game, with the Rams facing an FCS program that finished 3-8 last season, losing their final four games, and dropping its opener at Wake Forest.

 Bluefield, which has a bunch of newcomers to add to several returnees, will face plenty of early season decisions, with the Rams looking to fit pieces and find the right combination for success.

 Trying to find answers against the Blue Hose will be tough, especially since Presbyterian will be heavy underdogs in its Week 1 tilt at FBS Northern Illinois.

 Presbyterian will also face N.C. State and Mississippi this season. The Blue Hose are 11-44 in five seasons under Harold Nichols.

 Prediction: Presbyterian (Bluefield, 0-2).

 Rounding out the Week 2 schedule will be Virginia hosting Richmond, which is where Mike London was before going to Charlottesville.

 Virginia's schedule is ranked the seventh toughest in the nation, and the Spiders are no pushover, although Richmond did finish 6-6 last year, including a narrow 23-21 setback N.C. State.

 Virginia, which was 2-10 last year, including nine losses in a row to end the season, will try to recover from a likely Week 1 loss to UCLA. The Cavaliers are 27-2-2 against the Spiders, who were last victorious in 1946.

 Greyson Lambert should have an easier time getting adjusted to the starting quarterback role, having faced a tall task the previous week with the Bruins.

 That 10-game losing streak comes to an end.

 Prediction: Virginia (1-1).

 Week 3, with an installment to run in Sunday's edition, includes East Carolina at Virginia Tech, Louisville visiting Virginia, Marshall entertaining Ohio and West Virginia on the road at Maryland.

 Local schools will also be on the road, including Concord at West Virginia State and Bluefield College visiting the Apprentice School in Newport News.

— Contact Brian Woodson at,  Twitter @bdtwoodson.

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