It’s that time again.
West Virginia University (1-1) hosts North Carolina State (2-0) at noon Saturday in Milan Puskar Stadium while Marshall University (1-1) hosts Ohio University (1-1) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Who’s going to win?
Here are my predictions:
A perfect storm is brewing in Morgantown. Imagine a team that has yielded merely 49 yards rushing in two games squaring off against an opponent that has the worst rushing attack in college football.
That’s N.C. State vs. WVU.
The Wolfpack has outscored East Carolina and Western Carolina by a combined 75-6 score, and hasn’t allowed a touchdown. N.C. State is averaging 522 yards in total offense while yielding only 375 yards per game — best in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Meanwhile, the Mountaineers’ offense is averaging a meager 32.0 yards rushing (No. 129 out of 130 FBS programs in NCAA statistics) and a minuscule 1.1 yards per carry (No. 130). Worse yet, WVU’s embattled offensive line has allowed 21 tackles for loss, which is the fourth most in the country.
Not a pretty picture, is it?
Besides that, N.C. State has a very successful coach in Dave Doeren.
“I think N.C. State starts with what Dave Doeren has done with the program,” said WVU first-year coach Neal Brown. “He has really built a program there where year in and year out now they are competing for their divisional championship. Back-to-back nine-win seasons, they are really, really consistent.
“They want to run the football on offense. They’ve been able to do that for going back four years in a row now. They’ve done a great job developing quarterbacks. The next guy here in line is just further proof of that.”
Defensively, the Wolfpack has scrapped its four-man front and switched to the increasingly popular three-man defensive line.
“For whatever reason,” said Brown, “they decided to change schematically to what they’re doing [three-man front] and haven’t given up a touchdown in two games. So, it looks like that decision has paid off so far.”
It’s going to pay off again against the Mountaineers. N.C. State will win, 31-10.
Now, for Marshall.
Ohio’s Nathan Rourke is the most dangerous quarterback Marshall will face in the regular season.
He’s that good.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior has been spectacular the last two seasons after arriving from Ontario. In 2017, Rourke rushed for 912 yards (6.7 per carry) and 21 touchdowns, while also passing for 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns. Then, in 2018, Rourke rushed for 860 yards (6.4 per carry) and 15 TDs while passing for 2,431 yards and 23 touchdowns.
That means Rourke has accounted for 38 touchdowns rushing and passing during each of the last two years.
“That’s impressive,” said Tyler Brown, 6-2, 219-pound senior who has moved into the Marshall starting lineup at linebacker. “Those are numbers good high school players are putting up. Those are numbers I put up in high school, but he’s doing it at the Division I level in college. That’s impressive.
“When you have a dual-threat quarterback it definitely changes a lot of things. There are things we can’t do with this quarterback because he’s dangerous. He’s definitely someone you can’t take your eyes off of.
“If you take your eyes off him and just go back in coverage ... as soon as you do, he’s going to be out the gate.”
Look for Marshall to hang on for a 34-28 win.
Season record: 4-0.