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West Virginia vs. Tennessee: Preview and Prediction

NCAA Football: East Carolina at West Virginia

Here is everything you need to know about the Mountaineers’ season opener in our West Virginia vs. Tennessee Preview.

Game info

3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

TV: CBS (Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson, Jamie Erdahl)

Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network; Sirius 103/XM 202

Fun Fact: These two schools are separated by 422 miles. Both programs have played for well over a century. Despite the history and geographical proximity, this will be the first meeting between the two teams.

Key players

Tennessee

The Quarterback

Tennessee’s offense is seriously inexperienced. It’s one senior, Keller Chryst, is a transfer from Stanford. He’s not even guaranteed to start. Chryst, who just happens to be the son of Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst, is in a battle with redshirt sophomore Jarrett Guarantano. Guarantano did make six starts last year, but the Volunteers finished SEC play winless. As if going winless wasn’t bad enough, this is not an SEC West team. They played in the subpar SEC East. Neither quarterback has amassed over 1,000 yards in a single season. They will lead an offense which needs a proven leader. Good luck!

TE Dominick Wood-Anderson

This is an under-the-radar talent coming from the JUCO ranks. He’s 6-foot-4, 257 pounds and was a four-star prospect who played quarterback in high school and was converted from defensive end in junior college. With an inexperienced offense, a few short passes to the tight end might help open the offense for other things.

LB Darrell Taylor

He finished second on the team with three sacks in 2017. Taylor is a player who is constantly improving from being redshirted in 2015 to making seven starts in 2017. He’s made the move from defensive end to linebacker

West Virginia

QB Will Grier

The Heisman campaign gets started this week. Although Tennessee’s defense is the experienced side, there will be a freshman starting at cornerback. Look for Grier to pick on that side of the ball. If the two freshmen competing for the spot can’t keep up, this game will be over by halftime and Grier will have himself a career day.

RB Kennedy McKoy

Justin Crawford is gone. A new leaf has turned. McKoy is the primary choice to replace Crawford. He’s made three starts and played in 25 games. How well can he establish the run game? McKoy has big shoes to fill, and he’ll want to start off by easing the minds of Mountaineers fans with a strong performance.

S Dravon Askew-Henry

A lot of people like to dog on the Big 12 about its defense. If you look at the preseason watch lists though, Askew-Henry has done something no one on Tennessee’s defense can claim. He’s on the Nagursky and Thorpe watch lists. Not a single player on the Volunteer defense was named to a watch list. Tennessee does not return any seniors to its offense, has a quarterback controversy, and brings in a new philosophy. This is a recipe that could allow Askew-Henry to make a name for himself.

Key storylines

Tennessee

Rebuilding. That is the one word which describes Tennessee best. They have a new coach, a completely inexperienced offense, and a defense which gave up at least 30 points in half the games it played in during the 2017 campaign. They are starting at the bottom, and the only way to go is up.

West virginia

Is this the year Dana Holgorsen makes a push towards his first Big 12 Championship? Can he at least make it to the title game? If so, can he also push this team into the College Football Playoff? When he was hired, Oliver Luck said he would be the guy to take the Mountaineers to the next level. This is the year that will happen if it does happen.

Prediction: West Virginia 52, Tennessee 10. For Mountaineers fans, this will be a fun game. For the rest of the college football world, this will be a snoozefest. Tennessee has a major lack of experience while West Virginia has an offense that could produce multiple Heisman contenders. Let’s not forget, Yodny Cajuste is on that line protecting Will Grier.

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