BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- No. 17 Marshall can make its season Thursday night when it visits ninth-ranked Virginia Tech in the first meeting between the schools in almost half a century.
If Marshall (1-0) can escape with a victory, it has a chance to go undefeated for the second time in four years and be in the mix for a BCS bowl bid. Because the Thundering Herd plays in the improving but still lesser-regarded Mid-American Conference, they have no margin for error.
A win over an established power such as Virginia Tech (2-0) at one of the more difficult road venues in the country is pivotal to Marshall's BCS chances. Lose this week and Marshall can do no better than another trip to a minor bowl.
Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich also gets to display his considerable talent before a national television audience (ESPN), and Virginia Tech can roll out its potent rushing duo of Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones.
"This is big, not just for me personally, but for the team," Leftwich said. "It's our first national TV game, so the world gets a chance to see what type of team we have."
Marshall was idle last week after a season-opening 50-17 win over Appalachian State in which Leftwich threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns. Leftwich lead an offense that averaged 37.3 points and over 500 yards last season.
The Thundering Herd will welcome back receiver Darius Watts, who sat out the season opener with a sprained shoulder.
The key question with Marshall is with a defense that ranked 106th in the nation against the run last season. That could spell trouble against a Virginia Tech's potent running game.
Suggs appears to be healthy after missing almost all of last season with a serious knee injury. Jones is pushing him for playing time. The pair have combined for 279 yards in the first
The Hokies also were idle Saturday after an impressive 26-8 win over LSU on Labor Day weekend.
Sophomore Bryan Randall will start at quarterback in place of senior Grant Noel, who underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left
knee last week.
Randall split time with Noel in the win over LSU and completed 5-of-9 passes for 47 yards. Marcus Vick and Will Hunt will be listed as the backups.
Virginia Tech won the last meeting, 7-0, in 1953.