As the off-season for college football is coming to a close, we are now one month away from the showdown in the Peach State (Atlanta, GA) between Alabama and Virginia Tech inside the Georgia Dome. For the third time since his arrival in Tuscaloosa in 2007, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide will face-off against a team from the ACC in the Chick-fil-A Kick-off week. This will be the second time that Alabama will play against Virginia Tech (2009 was the first time, Alabama won 34-24).
The first game of the season that tells so much about a program. It is used as a barometer to see how the rest of the season could pan out. It is imperative in college football that teams start off on the right foot with a win. Everything must click on all cylinders offensively and defensively, along with making sure that all the kinks are ironed out in the first game.
In the 27-year tenure of Virginia Tech’s head coach Frank Beamer, the Hookies have had 13 10+ win seasons. This remarkable run ended horribly last season for the Hookies as they finished with a mediocre 7-6 record (started the season 3-1). Many people were blamed for the lackluster season, but the individual who was criticized the most was Logan Thomas. Last season, the 6’6 260 lbs. QB struggled with accuracy, mobility and decision making. In his freshman year, Thomas passed for 3,013 yards and 19 touchdowns, but last season his interception numbers increased from 10 (2011) to 16. The key to Thomas’s success in his freshman season was predicated on his mobility. In the past two seasons, we have seen flashes of how affective Logan Thomas can be when he throws on the run. Though his mobility was slowed a little last season because of his weight, Thomas has dropped 10 lbs. putting him at 240 lbs. coming into this season. Virginia Tech has made some moves this off-season in the coaching aspect as well, acquiring Auburn’s offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler. With the hire of Loeffler, coach Beamer hopes that he will help improve the mindset and big play ability of Logan Thomas.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, they will enter the 2013 regular season as a two-time BCS National Champion. With that being said, the target is on coach Saban and the Tide as the team to beat. Alabama comes into this season with a few new faces on the offensive line. After losing three All-Americans (Barrett Jones, DJ Fluker and Chance Warmack) to the NFL Draft in the off-season, Alabama is poised to make sure this year’s O-Line has the chemistry that previous ones have had. The Crimson Tide will return Anthony Steen, Ryan Kelly and the Kouandjio brothers (Cyrus and Arie) from last season.
This is good news for Alabama because those players were mentored by Jones, Fluker and Warmack, so they will have the ability and knowledge to not only do their jobs better, but to help the younger guys as mentors themselves. Offensively, the sky is the limit for Alabama. The Crimson Tide will return starting QB AJ McCarron along with a host of running backs (led by TJ Yeldon) and receivers (led by Amari Cooper). The question marks for the Crimson Tide will come on the defensive side of the ball. Two of the main questions are will Alabama generate enough pressure upfront with the duo of Adrian Hubbard and Xzavier Dickson? Can the secondary of Alabama really step up and play well this season.
According to many college football website, the spread for this game has the highly-touted Crimson Tide handily defeating the Hookies by 22+ points. Will Frank Beamer in this situation, tell his players that this is the motivation to go out there and demand respect by competing toe-to-toe with the defending national champs? You can count on it. You can’t just put 11 players on the field against Nick Saban and Alabama and expect to win, that doesn’t happen. Virginia Tech must have a full proof plan coming into this game if they want to defeat the Crimson Tide. The Hookies must excel in five areas if they want to keep the game close (3-7 points) or pull off the upset. Here are the five areas Virginia Tech must excel at.
FIVE AREAS VIRGINIA TECH MUST EXCEL IN
1. QB Logan Thomas (6’6 240lbs.)
a. He must become a man in this game and take control of the offense
b. His accuracy must be consistent
c. He has to make great decisions with the football
d. He must read coverage pre and post snap
e. His receivers have to be able to take the top off the Crimson Tide secondary and get open down field
f. He has to make plays with his legs, if the pocket breaks down
g. 16 INT’s last season (He can’t throw a pick against the Tide)
2. Offensive Line
a. They must try to dominate the Alabama defense from the first snap
b. Limit the pressure on Logan Thomas and give him a clean pocket to scan the field
c. Create holes and lanes for the running backs to produce yards in this game (Virginia Tech must rush for 100+ yards if they want to defeat Alabama)
d. They cannot have stupid penalties called on them (False starts)
3. Defensive Line
a. They must stuff the run and get penetration upfront (Disrupt Alabama’s run game and prevent them from going over 100 yards)
b. They must show different blitz/pressure packages against the Crimson Tide O-Line.
c. They can’t allow QB AJ McCarron to be comfortable in the pocket. (Sack him, knock him down a few times, get his jersey dirty and force him to make mistakes)
d. The secondary has to disrupt the timing between McCarron and his receivers, jamming them at the line of scrimmage and disguising coverage
4. Special Teams
a. Virginia Tech must try control field position if they want to win
b. Beamer ball has been the staple for the Hookies for years
c. With the loss of Dyrell Roberts, Virginia Tech needs to find someone to gain positive yards on punt and kick returns.
d. The punter has to pin Alabama inside the 20-yard line
5. Third Down Conversions
a. In order for Virginia Tech to win this game, their offense must sustain drives
b. The Hookies must convert the majority of their third downs.
c. They have to not get in long distances on third down (Keep it manageable)
d. To keep the Tide defense off balance on third down, Virginia Tech must mix up the play calling.