It has to be one of the biggest college football days in the history of the Mountain State.
Yet, as it almost always the case, one school will be overshadowed by the other.
Sometimes the schedule makers just don’t get it right. Or, perhaps they do, depending on your perspective.
Why couldn’t Marshall play Virginia Tech on any other weekend?
As much as Marshall tries, the Thundering Herd is constantly overshadowed by the Mountaineers, and this Saturday is no different.
Just check out the local stores. There is West Virginia apparel everywhere, and you practically have to visit the Marshall book store to find green.
No. 13 Virginia Tech is making its first trip to Huntington in 71 years to face the Thundering Herd. It is a huge game for Marshall, an opportunity to bring back their reputation as giant killers.
Yet, all eyes in West Virginia will be focused on Morgantown, starting early on Saturday morning when ESPN GameDay broadcast live in the Mountain State for the first time in 25 years of traveling to college football venues.
They could have chosen any of four games involving top 25 teams. No. 3 Alabama will host No. 14 Arkansas, No. 7 Oklahoma State — Dana Holgorsen’s former team — travels to No. 8 Texas A&M, and No. 11 Florida State visits Clemson.
All are conference games and all were good choices for GameDay. They picked Morgantown.
Call it a good choice. The meeting with No. 2 LSU is one of the biggest games ever at West Virginia. For LSU, it is just another road game.
There has been much made about the atmosphere at Mountaineer Field and a visiting team trying to win in that environment. However, LSU plays in front of that frenzied crowd every week.
Since the summer I have had one local fan call me just about once a week to remind me that West Virginia will beat LSU, and will then go undefeated and then play for the national championship.
It could happen, but I doubt it.
Depending on who you believe, West Virginia was either denied entry into the SEC or never actually applied, but either way, this is the Mountaineers’ chance to prove they belong.
While it’s doubtful that the Mountaineers compete at a national championship level as a regular member of the SEC — the weekly schedule is simply brutal — but on a one-game basis anything can happen.
Remember the Sugar Bowl? Georgia fans sure do.
Yet, LSU is battle-tested, having beaten Oregon and Mississippi State — a talented team with a typical SEC schedule — and the Tigers’ defense is simply nasty. They’re big, fast, strong and deep, all combinations in the trenches that will make the difference in this game.
Holgorsen’s offense will be put to the ultimate test. Since allowing 14 points late in a win over Oregon — it was 40-20 at one time — the Tigers have allowed exactly nine points.
The Mountaineers played LSU close last season, falling 20-14. This game will be fun, and close at the break, but the Tigers will pull away in the second half.
Prediction: LSU 24, West Virginia 14.
Don’t fret. There is still the Big East, and the Mountaineers will still be BCS bowl bound. The national championship will have to wait.
As for the Herd, don’t forget about the Hokies and a huge opportunity for Marshall, which once had a reputation for pulling upsets, but haven’t defeated a ranked club since beating Kansas State in 2004.
They’re 0-12 in that role since then, and will try to take down the Hokies, who haven’t lost a true non-conference regular season road game since a trip to Charlottesville, which was still a member of the Big East in 2003.
Losses to East Carolina, Alabama and Boise State were all at neutral sites.
While Marshall is playing its second ranked team and West Virginia is playing No. 2 LSU, Virginia Tech still hasn’t even played a BCS league team.
They nearly went down at East Carolina, while beating a pair of lesser opponents. The Herd is coming off an embarrassing performance at Ohio, losing 44-7, and now have to regroup against the 13th ranked team in the nation.
Marshall is building, but there’s still a long ways to go.
At least the ‘Joan’ — as Marshall star defensive end Vinny Curry calls Marshall’s home stadium — should be full. If local fans can’t fill it — a complaint Curry had earlier this week — Virginia Tech fans will do it for them.
Virginia Tech will enjoy its trip to Huntington, and then prepare for a home tilt with Clemson. Finally, a BCS team.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Marshall 9.
Now, to figure out how to attend both games. Wonder if the company helicopter is available?
Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at email@example.com