Tale of Two Camps: A Look At Marshall And WVU Football Ahead Of Opener

Posted on August 19, 2019

College football is now just weeks away. Both the WVU Mountaineers and Marshall Thundering Herd kickoff the 2019 season at home in the Mountain State.

WVU starts its year in Morgantown against FCS-title hopeful James Madison. Marshall begins in WV as well as it battles Virginia Military Institute in Huntington.

Despite both teams coming off good seasons a year ago, each is entering the new year in different situations.

The Mountaineers have a new head coach and starting quarterback as they look to transition to the Neal Brown era. WVU has a lot of talented players, but its expectations in a difficult Big 12 Conference are limited.

Marshall, on the other hand, returns 13 starters from a year ago and is hoping it can improve on its 9-4 record in 2018. The Herd finished in second place in the Conference USA East division.

No matter what each team’s season projection looks like, residents in WV are more than ready for football to begin. Without an NFL team in the state, the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd are the top two tickets available every year.

Besides their home stadiums, WV sportsbooks will soon be packed with bettors looking to get some action down on the local teams.

Even though there isn’t a mobile sports betting app available in WV right now, it’s possible that one launches in time for the start of college football.

Both FanDuel Sportsbook as well as DraftKings Sportsbook have been approved to operate in the state and could release in the very near future.

Let’s examine the status of both WV college programs and see how prepared they are with just a couple of weeks remaining before the regular-season opener.

WVU football

WVU football fans have a slightly different outlook heading into this season then they did last year. Even the optimists have to expect the Mountaineers to take a step back after going 8-4 a year ago.

The team’s biggest question mark of the offseason remains unanswered, as the Mountaineers finish up another week of camp without naming a starting quarterback.

Brown thought the Mountaineers had solved the problem of Will Grier going to the NFL with Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall, but he’s yet to win the job.

After WVU’s first team scrimmage, it’s clear that the offense is not close to ready for the start of the year. Coach Brown didn’t shy away from what he saw from a disappointing day. He said:

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. The good news is we have plenty of time to get there.”

The Mountaineers’ new coach may have some time before the first week, but the fact that a starting QB hasn’t emerged is concerning. This competition truly might come down to the last practice of camp.

WVU less than a few weeks of games before its difficult conference schedule kicks in, but that doesn’t mean it won’t have stiff tests. Even the opening week matchup against FCS opponent James Madison might prove to be tricky.

Brown knows his roster can compete when they’re playing at their best, but he needs the team to raise its basement. He said:

“Our bad has to be way better. If you look at quality football teams, when they don’t play well they still have a chance to be in games and win. Our bad is really bad. When we’re good, we look like a quality football team.”

WVU opens up the season in Morgantown on Aug. 31.

Thundering Herd football

It absolutely helps that Marshall plays in Conference USA, however, the team has a real chance to win its conference this year, unlike WVU. The Herd was predicted to win the East division this season according to C-USA’s media members.

The 2019 campaign will largely be determined by the play of sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green. The QB earned C-USA All-Freshman Team honors a year ago behind 2,400 passing yards and 16 total touchdowns.

If Green can expand on his freshman year and limit his turnovers (he threw 10 interceptions in 2018), then Marshall could be a true contender.

Green will have plenty of help on the offensive side of the ball. The majority of the offensive line is back and they’ll be blocking in front of two very talented running backs.

Brenden Knox came on down the stretch to gain more than 575 yards along with four touchdowns in the team’s final five games. In Marshall’s bowl game against South Florida, Knox gained 93 yards on just 12 carries in the team’s victory.

Knox got the opportunity mostly due to the fact that running back Tyler King got hurt midseason. King accounted for 655 yards on the ground and had the same yards per carry average as Knox, with 6.1 yards.

Marshall will have some new weapons to use as well. Tavin Richardson, a transfer receiver from Kentucky, has been making a lot of plays at camp practice.

Richardson and senior Obi Obialo will be the main targets on the outside.

With a lot of the pieces in place for the Thundering Herd, fans are looking for a year to remember. That doesn’t seem to faze coach Doc Holliday, who will be coaching in his 10th year at Marshall this fall.

According to the WV MetroNews, Holliday said:

“That’s the way it’s supposed to be at Marshall. Our kids understand that along with those expectations, there is a responsibility to go to work every day. I wouldn’t want to coach at a school where the fans didn’t expect you to win every year.”

Marshall’s first game is in front of its home fans on Aug. 31 against the VMI Keydets.

Betting on WV college football

Even if an online sportsbook doesn’t go live in WV in time for football, residents can still get their wagers in.

There are active sports betting locations in WV:

While books just released the Mountaineers’ week one betting line, there is nothing posted yet for Marshall. Bettors can bet on several futures for the Herd, though, including their regular-season win total.

DraftKings in New Jersey has the following odds for the WV programs:

  • WVU -5.5 (-110)
    • Moneyline: -200
  • JMU +5.5 (-110)
    • Moneyline: +163
  • WVU Win total
    • Over 5 (+108)
    • Under 5 (-130)
  • Marshall Win total
    • Over 7.5 (-110)
    • Under 7.5 (-110)
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Chris Imperiale

Chris Imperiale covers sports betting and the online casino industries. He has a journalism degree from Rutgers University and was formerly on staff at Bleacher Report.

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