Two bitter in-state rivals will kick off the 2012 College Football season on Saturday afternoon when Marshall and No. 11 West Virginia square off in Morgantown.
The last two matchups between WVU and Marshall have been dramatic to say the least.
The Mountaineers rallied from 15 points down in 2010 to force overtime and ultimately win. And last September, the game was waved off in the fourth quarter because of intense lightning.
Here is everything you need to know to get geared up for Saturday's wild and wonderful showdown.
Where: Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, WV
When: Saturday, September 1 at 12 p.m. ET
Listen: WDGG 93.7 FM (Huntington) WVAQ 101.9 FM (Morgantown)
Live Streaming: ESPN GamePlan
Betting Line: West Virginia (-25), according to BOVADA.net.
This in-state rivalry has been one-sided over the years, with the Mountaineers taking all 11 meetings between the two programs. Of course that's not to say that the games between these two schools haven't been close and entertaining.
Nevertheless, Marshall would benefit immensely from a win this weekend. The Thundering Herd have been the little brother to WVU in the state of West Virginia for a long time now. On Saturday, the key storyline to watch for will be the Mountaineers' dominance over Marshall. Will it continue?
Who May Not Play for Marshall
*According to USA Today
No significant injuries to report.
Who May Not Play for West Virginia
*According to USA Today
No significant injuries to report.
All of the major BCS and Top 25 implications in Saturday's matchup pertain directly to West Virginia. The Mountaineers enter the new season ranked No. 11 in the country, and in need of a hot start to ensure that their BCS hopes remain alive.
WVU won the Big East a season ago and then followed up their conference title with an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. If the Mountaineers expect to stay atop the rankings and get back to another BCS Bowl in 2012, they will need to not only win at home this weekend, but also earn some style points along the way.
What They're Saying
Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday spoke about the magnitude of the Marshall vs. West Virginia rivalry during his press conference on Tuesday (via HerdZone.com):
If anybody ever said that they weren’t interested in that game I think they would be kidding themselves. Every year that game is sold out. I’ve had so many calls for tickets I could have probably sold out half of what they have left. There’s not a game I have been involved in that hasn’t been a sellout and a great TV game. It’s good for the state.
The in-state rivals have always played entertaining games on the gridiron, especially over the last two seasons.
Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen had only praise for Marshall during his Tuesday press conference (via WVUSports.com):
We expect them to be a better football team than they were last year, not just when they played us, but also toward the end of the year when you watch the product they put out there. That (offense) should not only be improved, but also specific people.
Holgorsen will look to run his record to 2-0 against Marshall as head coach in Morgantown on Saturday.
Marshall Player to Watch
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson has potential at the next level as a 6'3", 200-pound wide receiver with a game-changing skill set. Dobson caught 49 passes in 2011 as a junior, racking up 668 yards and pulling in 12 touchdowns.
No. 3 will look to make sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato's day that much easier on Saturday, as he will take loads of pressure off the rest of the offense as one of the most talented players on the field.
West Virginia Player to Watch
Senior signal caller Geno Smith will be a Heisman Trophy candidate this season after throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 touchdowns a year ago. He leads the Mountaineers' attack into their matchup with Marshall having plenty experience against the Thundering Herd.
Smith completed 15 of 21 passes against Marshall as a freshman in 2009 after an injury to the starter forced him into the fire. Interestingly enough, Smith has never thrown an interception against the Thundering Herd in three games.
The most important matchup to watch for on Saturday will be the West Virginia passing attack versus the Marshall defense, specifically the Thundering Herd's secondary. Dana Holgorsen loves to air the ball out in his spread offense, and with a seasoned passer in Geno Smith dropping back this weekend, the Mountaineers should have plenty of success throwing the ball.
WVU ranked sixth in the country a season ago in passing offense, racking up more than 345 yards per game through the air. Smith had 249 yards and two touchdowns in the two teams' 2011 matchup before it was called off because of lightning.
On the Hotseat
West Virginia head man Dana Holgorsen will be on the hotseat all season long in Morgantown after leading the Mountaineers to an Orange Bowl title last January. In addition to matching high expectations in his second year as coach, Holgorsen will have to find success during his team's first season in a new conference.
The Mountaineers join the Big 12 this season and will play the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and TCU among others this fall. Holgorsen will be on the hotseat in 2012 as West Virginia attempts to live up to expectations in a much more challenging conference. But first, he and the Mountaineers have to beat Marshall at home.
With West Virginia playing at home as the No. 11-ranked team in the nation, it's hard to see them going down to an in-state rival that they have dominated over the years. Marshall always gives them a tough game, but things should get ugly after halftime on Saturday.
West Virginia 45, Marshall 21
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