The West Virginia Mountaineers (1-1) host the No. 15 Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0) to renew their cross-state rivalry after a few-year hiatus. The kickoff in Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium is scheduled for noon ET. The winner will hoist the Black Diamond Trophy.
Virginia Tech upset then-No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels 17-10 in the season opener September 3 as 4.5-point home underdogs. The Hokies followed that up with a 35-14 shellacking of the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders as 20-point home favorites in what could’ve easily been a “letdown” game. Virginia Tech is winning by minimizing mistakes and allowing opponents to shoot themselves in the foot. For instance, the Hokies are plus-two in turnover differential and plus-six in penalty differential.
West Virginia recovered from a 30-24 loss at the Maryland Terrapins as 2.5-point favorites in its first game to demolish Long Island University 66-0. These results are on the polar opposite sides of the spectrum. The Mountaineers were minus-four in turnover differential against Maryland and were outgained 6.2-5.3 in yards per play. However, against Long Island, West Virginia held a massive edge in total yardage gained, 542-95.
West Virginia is leading the all-time series 28-23-1, but Virginia Tech has won three straight meetings from 2004-17. The Mountaineers are 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven games. In their last seven road games, the Hokies are 1-6 ATS and have played to the Over in six of those contests.
*Betting splits pulled from Pregame.com’s Game Center*
There’s a “reverse line move” in the total market and an obvious “line freeze” in the sides market. For instance, more than 60% of the cash wagered is on the Over, but the total has been moved up from the 49.5-point opener. It’s suspicious whenever sportsbooks make the more popular side cheaper. Also, Virginia Tech’s spread has nearly 70% of the betting handle, but the line hasn’t budged.
Maybe this will come off as a bit “square,” but Virginia Tech’s win over a North Carolina is enough to nudge me in the Hokies’ direction. North Carolina QB Sam Howell was a preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and expected to be a first-round NFL draft pick. However, Virginia Tech’s defense smothered Howell and the Tar Heels. The Hokies intercepted three of Howell’s passes and held him to just a 53.1% completion rate. Virginia Tech’s defense sacked Howell six times and had nine tackles for a loss vs. North Carolina. And North Carolina’s offense was projected to be the fifth-most efficient by Football Outsiders in the preseason.
On the other hand, I’m throwing out West Virginia’s beatdown of Long Island University. The Sharks (LIU) have only been an FCS football program since 2019 and play their home games in a 6,000-person stadium. The Mountaineers were supposed to clobber them. Furthermore, West Virginia’s 30-24 loss came against a Maryland projected to finish 58th in total efficiency, and the Mountaineers were smoked on the stats.
Based on the little data available and a recruited talent discrepancy favoring Virginia Tech, the Hokies are clearly the right side.
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