Week 1 - Alabama vs. Virginia Tech

Posted Aug 29, 2013

Week 1 Fearless Prediction - Alabama vs. Virginia Tech

Alabama (0-0) vs. Virginia Tech (0-0) , in Atlanta, Aug. 31, 5:30, ESPN

Why You Should Give A Hoot: Just how good is the two-time defending BCS champion? After all but being handed the national title already, the 2013 season is a mere formality, right?

Maybe not.

Virginia Tech is supposed to be nothing more than a speed bump. After all, the Crimson Tide juggernaut is absolutely deadly under Nick Saban when it has time to prepare for a meaningful game – the 2009 Sugar Bowl sort of doesn't count – and if it comes out and blasts away in an easy win, it'll seem like business as usual. The No. 1 team in America is supposed to drill an ACC team coming off a 7-6 season, but nothing is ever taken for granted when Saban is involved. No one is better at getting an ultra-talented team focused on getting the job done on the next play, the next series and the next game, but with two weeks off to deal with Johnny Halftime, it might be a wee bit hard for the Tide to compartmentalize the moment. Meanwhile, on the other side, it's statement time.

It was only two years ago when the Hokies went 11-3 with two losses to Clemson – including a 38-10 drubbing in the ACC championship – and a controversial loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Before last season, Tech won ten games or more in six straight seasons, and last year wasn't nearly as bad as the 7-6 record might indicate. The might not have been any impressive wins, and it might have been a down year, but it was also a rebuilding campaign. Has Frank Beamer lost his touch? Can he and Virginia Tech finally win a really, really big game again? The entire narrative of the 2013 college football season could quickly change with one big performance by an underappreciated team.

Or Alabama will be Alabama, America will yawn, and the hype will begin for the showdown with the Aggies.

Why Alabama Might Win: How is Virginia Tech going to score? The Hokies had a nightmare of a time consistently putting points on the board last season and did next to nothing pushing the passing game down the field. The biggest problem was a line that didn't generate enough of a push for the ground attack and didn't give quarterback Logan Thomas enough time to work – things aren't appreciably better going into this season. Alabama might not generate too much of a steady pass rush, but it might not need to. Thomas isn't a deadly accurate passer and his receivers will struggle to get open.
Why Virginia Tech Might Win: No one in the SEC will want to buy this, but this might be the best defense Alabama faces all season long. It's a loaded group returning from a D that led the ACC in sacks and finished second on tackles for loss, improving as the season went on and doing a nice job against the run. The line is aggressive and active, and the secondary, despite the absence of top corner, Antone Exum, is talented and physical. There's talk that this might be the best defensive front Frank Beamer has fielded in a decade, and considering Alabama is welcoming in three new starters on offense, there could be consistency problems.

Who To Watch Out For: Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas. After regressing in a big way last season following a solid 2011, in one game, Thomas has a big chance to change around his program and his draft future. A 6-6, 257-pound dual-threat, the ceiling is enormous, but he's too erratic and too inaccurate. However, all the tools are there, along with the ability to come up with one big performance on a national stage. Now it'll be up to new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to make sure that Thomas authors a complete about-face from a year ago.

- Alabama destroyed Michigan 41-14 in the 2012 season opener. The Crimson Tide has won the last six openers by double digits and hasn't lost in the first week since a 20-17 gaffe against UCLA in 2001. How good has Bama been to kick things off? It has won the last three openers by a combined total of 137-24. On the flip side, Virginia Tech lost three openers before winning its last two.

- This simply might be a case of Alabama being business-as-usual. It's unquantifiable, but there doesn't seem to be the same sort of anger and fire this year like there was going into last season. There will never be a sense of entitlement under Saban, and the place has become a factory for talent, but there's a different vibe this time around.

- Never, ever discount the lookahead factor. Virginia Tech can complain that no one seems to care much about this game, considering all the focus is in two weeks when Alabama goes to College Station, and it would be right. Don't be shocked if this team comes out with a quiet confidence to go along with a ball of fire from the defensive front.

What Will Happen: Alabama will win, but it's not going to be pretty. The final score will probably make it look like a mild blowout, but the Tide will struggle to get there with the Virginia Tech defense causing major problems running consistently. After this game the storyline will be, "What's wrong with Alabama?" Instead, it should be about how Virginia Tech is rock solid, even if it loses.
Prediction: Alabama 26 … Virginia Tech 10
Line: Alabama -20 o/u: 45.5
Must See Rating: (5 Hard Knocks – 1 ‘N Sync on the VMAs) … 4.5