No other team has a tougher week 1 matchup than the Virginia Tech Hokies. The team is probably already packing up their bags to head down to Atlanta for their Saturday evening game against two-time defending National Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. In the last five years, only seven teams have managed to beat Alabama, three of which ended up going on to the National Title game, and all of which would be considered better teams than this year’s Hokies. In order to pull off what would be the biggest upset of the season, Virginia Tech will have to outperform Alabama in every aspect of the game.
The most important thing for the Hokies to do come Saturday is to put points on the board. It may sound obvious, but the fact is that even with a defense led by the great Bud Foster, Virginia Tech will not be able to shut down the Crimson Tide offense, so they will have to score early and score often. The Hokies should expect Alabama to score on the majority of their drives, and they will have to put on a show in order to keep up.
Running the ball against Alabama is going to be very difficult. Their defense is prepared to stop the best rushing attacks in the SEC, AKA the best in the country. Virginia Tech’s offensive line will struggle to successfully block Alabama’s front seven and establish a running game.
Virginia Tech will not win if they cannot complete long passes. There will be plenty of 3rd-and-long situations that the Hokies must convert to keep AJ McCarron and the Alabama offense off of the field if they want to have any hope of keeping this game close.
Logan Thomas will have his hands full trying to pick apart Alabama’s defense, and he will not have a long time to do it. Last year he threw 16 interceptions. If he wants to beat the best team in the country, he will have to throw zero interceptions. Alabama does not give the ball up easily, and if they take it away, they will make the Hokies pay for it. It all seven of their losses over the past five years, the Tide had more turnovers than their opponents. Virginia Tech must win the turnover margin. Period.
Virginia Tech’s defense will be good this year, maybe the best in the ACC, but in week one they are not facing an ACC opponent. The first thing Nick Saban will do is see how effectively Virginia Tech can defend against the run. Alabama has an elite tailback in TJ Yeldon, and he has 5-star talent to back him up all the way down the depth chart. This game could turn into the Tide simply wearing down the defensive front with successful running plays. Virginia Tech will have to force Alabama to throw the ball and rely on their defensive backs to stop the passing attack, which will be easier said than done as well.
Part of the reason the Hokie defense was expected to be so successful this season was the return of nine starters. The front seven looks solid, but they will be without cornerback Antone Exum. In his place are two true freshman, Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. Both players have impressed the coaches, but it’s hard to believe that they will be able to step up against Alabama in their first career games as college football players.
If the defense can handle Alabama’s running backs and walk away with a few interceptions (AJ McCarron threw five last year- five!), Virginia Tech has a chance to keep this game close.
The senior quarterback deserves his own section because this game will be won or lost by the decisions Logan Thomas made. There is no margin for error against Alabama. He will have to protect the ball without being too conservative, make the big plays when they’re needed, and keep Alabama’s offense off of the field.
He has the ability to be an elite quarterback if he can return to his 2011 form; no one denies how talented he is. He certainly regressed last season, but under new offensive coordinator Scott Loefller, Hokie fans are hoping he can find his rhythm early and pull off an upset. If he is able to just that, last years woes will be forgotten.
Johnny Manziel was good before last year’s game against Alabama, but when did he become famous? After he beat Alabama. The pressure will be on for Thomas, but he has an opportunity to bring glory to his school, and always be remembered by Hokie fans as the quarterback that #BEATBAMA.