The final game between ranked opponents in college football’s Week 1 may be the most competitive of the bunch.
True, Virginia Tech and West Virginia break in new quarterbacks in their season-opening battle for the Black Diamond Trophy — the first since since 2005 — but Sunday’s matchup promises to be an exciting one.
Here are the biggest matchups and keys to victory for the Mountaineers and Hokies:
Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia
This game could have the highest combined point total of the top-25 matchups this weekend, even more than the highly anticipated Alabama-FSU and Florida-Michigan matchups. Last season, both teams last season averaged more than 400 yards and at least 30 points per game. However, the identity of both Virginia Tech and West Virginia has changed because of new faces — and several departures.
Virginia Tech lost 75 percent of its leading offensive production from last season, including top passer — and rusher — Jerod Evans and top receiver Isaiah Ford. The Hokies must find answers to keep up with the pace of the Mountaineers’ usually high-scoring offense, and that will start with redshirt freshman Josh Jackson.
The Hokies do have a reliable defense that can keep the Mountaineers in the game while the offense gets its feed under it early on. The secondary is one of the strongest units in the country, with headliners Adonis Alexander, Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman.
West Virginia also has its fair share of departing contributors. Former quarterback Skyler Howard tossed 26 touchdowns last season, with half of those going to Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts, also gone from Morgantown. Will Grier will be tasked with replacing his production — if his five-game stretch at Florida in 2015 is anything to go by, he may just be up for the challenge.
Both teams will have hiccups throughout the game while trying to find ways to get their offense clicking — but even with the large amount of departing offensive players, these teams should still score points.