Saturday’s game againstMarshall is being played for one reason: because Virginia Tech becomes bowl eligible with a win. The conditional make-up game was locked in when the Hokies knocked off Virginia for the 15th consecutive time to get to 5-6, putting them one win shy of continuing what is now the nation’s longest bowl streak at 25 years.
Marshall certainly has less on the line. The Herd are 8-3 and win or lose, they will be going to the postseason for the second straight year and for the fifth time in six seasons. This will be head coach Doc Holliday’s seventh bowl team, tying Bob Pruett for the most bowl appearances by a Marshall head coach.
The game in Blacksburg will be the sixth meeting between the Thundering Herd and the Hokies, with Virginia Tech sporting a perfect 5-0 record in the series.
Marshall at Virginia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network Extra/WatchESPN
Spread: Virginia Tech -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Can the Hokies bring the emotion once again?
What came first, the losses or the lack of electricity at Lane Stadium? It’s hard to know, as wins and excitement have been hard to find during Virginia Tech home games this season. But there was energy in the building on Saturday and the Hokies snapped a four-game home losing streak with the win over Virginia. The battle with Marshall is not a rivalry game, but bowl eligibility does hang in the balance. Will the Hokies — and their fans — ramp up the intensity for this noon kickoff?
2. Marshall turnovers, both for and against
The Thundering Herd are plus-one in turnover margin this year, but that is the result of a bunch of giveaways and takeaways. Marshall is tied for 16th nationally with 23 forced turnovers, but they are also tied for 98th with 22 giveaways. The Herd have recorded 12 interceptions and thrown 12 picks. Virginia Tech doesn’t give the ball (14 turnovers) nor take it away (16) all that much, so this falls on Marshall to dictate how this game goes from a turnover perspective.
3. Ryan Willis has a new weapon
Damon Hazelton had a big first half of the season, but he was banged up last week. That meant an increased role for Tre Turner, who had a major impact on the outcome. The true freshman had a spectacular, one-handed touchdown grab, and finished the victory over the Cavaliers with four catches for 69 yards as well as one carry that went for 43 more. For good measure, he had a punt block that resulted in the Hokies' second score. Willis has become more comfortable with Turner as the season has developed as the Oak Ridge, North Carolina, product has had four receptions in each of the last three games.
Marshall has had another successful season with eight victories and a bowl destination awaiting. The Thundering Herd do everything pretty well and are exceptional at stopping the run. But the Hokies do not possess a dynamic rushing offense and are carried by Ryan Willis and the passing game. The talent advantage is on the Virginia Tech sideline, but is bowl eligibility enough of a motivator for this up-and-down team? The Hokies have slipped up at Old Dominion and have looked unprepared at other times this season, especially at home. This week, they will be ready enough. It may not be a dominating performance, but Virginia Tech will get by the Herd and claim their sixth victory.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Marshall 24
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.