Who: Norfolk State Spartans
When: 1:00 pm, Saturday September 10
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, West Virginia
What to watch for when the ‘Eers have the ball: The continuing development of the high-flying Mountaineer offense. Last week, the passing game looked good while the run game struggled. New head coach Dana Holgorsen called a more evenly-balanced game than many expected, but the running plays were almost entirely for naught. That said, Marshall's strength is in its defensive line, so there was some tough running. I expect Holgosen to lean hard on the run game to get some reps for the other backs who weren't featured last week, as well as to build confidence on the offensive line. If the run game still stalls out against significantly lesser competition, it may be time to worry.
What to watch for when the Spartans have the ball: The Mountaineers' interior run defense. Much like the offensive run game, the defensive run game didn't look great last weekend. When a guy named Tron gashes you for over seven yards a carry, there's going to be problems.Luckily, as stated above, the competition this Saturday shouldn't even compare. I'd like to see the Mountaineers effectively stuff any between the tackles running and let Bruce Irvin run wild on the outside. If Irvin is expected to rise to the top of next year's draft class, he'll need some eye-popping stats. This is his opportunity to pile up more sacks than Red Cross volunteers during the 1985 flood.
The Mountaineers will roll if: The weather doesn't end the game early. Seriously, I expect this to look like men against boys out there. I sense that the Mountaineers may have some pent-up aggression after last week's weather delayed debacle. Go for broke, boys - you might as well.
The Mountaineers will have trouble if: Anyone gets hurt. If Geno Smith goes down, all bets are off. If one important Mountaineer gets injured in this one, it's one too many.
Thing that makes my blood boil: This game in general. I know why teams take advantage of scheduling FCS opponents, and reap the rewards of an extra home game. I get that. What drives me nuts is having to watch what is essentially an exhibition game. After last week's lightning-shortened season opener, I'm still chomping at the bit for some real football. That won't happen until WVU travels to Maryland next week. This week, lets just hope the ‘Eers are up large enough in the second half to take Geno Smith off of the field and get Paul Millard some work.