Wednesday, September 02, 2009
At My Signal, Unleash Hell!
ATLANTA -- Two days from now, the 2009 season will begin. It will begin with what may arguably be the most anticipated opening game in Virginia Tech football history. The expectations are high and never has so much pressure, so many anticipations, so much hope been placed on one game.
"...Alabama, week one, will dictate whether or not the Hokies are a legitimate national title contender..." Those were Kirk Herbstreit's words earlier this week.
Alabama rolls into this game with almost no expectations. They're hidden from the limelight by the likes of Florida and talk of a resurgent Old Miss. The Tide, though questions remain on offense where they lost some key players, will more than likely make up for these losses on defense. These two teams facing off on Saturday may have the countries two best defenses in the land.
Tech, on the other hand, has, seemingly, almost everything riding on this game. First, the Hokies are vying for a three-peat of the ACC championship. While, this game doesn't directly impact their chances, the impact of the results of the first three games of the season on the psyche of the team could be devastating or momentum building. This is especially the case since many of the national pundits are not picking the Hokies to win the ACC this year.
Second, as Herbstreit mentioned, this team has the potential [key-word here, being potential] of making the run for the national title. It certainly has the talent. It all relies on those two factors that we've talked about ad nauseam: coaching and Tyrod Taylor.
All that being said, lets breakdown what the Hokies will need to do to win this game. MadJay did an amazing job in his last post breaking down the positions for the Hokies this season. Here, I will breakdown some of the key Tide players to watch as well as some matchups that will define the outcome of this game.
As I said earlier, this game will be decided by the defenses. Alabama's front line on defense will arguably be the best of the best this season. No one better defines that than senior Terrence Cody. "Mount Cody" lines up at nose tackle in Coach Nick Saban's 3-4 defensive scheme. He's a force at stopping the run. He had 24 tackles last year, including 4 1/2 for losses. The Hokies will have a tough time controlling him. He has some fifty pounds on Ed Wang and Blake DeChristopher, the two that will be charged to wrangle him in. The Tech backs will have to work hard to run through and continue past the Alabama line if the Hokies have any chance of establishing any kind of running game. With the injuries to Kenny Lewis, Jr and Darren Evans, the Hokies will start Josh Oglesby and rotate in Ryan Williams and, if needed true freshman David Wilson. Of these, I believe Williams has the most breakaway speed to handle getting past the line and backers and into the backfield.
Speaking of the linebackers, they are another major concern, not only in the run game, but also passing. Led by Roland McClain in 2008, the Tide's linebackers will give Tyrod Taylor some trouble in the passing game. The complex scheme will be hard to read and expect some unorthodox blitz packages.
At the corners, Alabama lines up well too. Senior Javier Arenas was a member of last year's All-SEC team. Arenas also is the NCAA active leader in punt returns. I will have to agree with MadJay here and say that if the o-line [Show US the money!] can hold back the pass rush and if Taylor can be accurate this is where we may have the slight advantage. I know that's a lot of ifs but if those things come together the Hokies have a shot.
On the flip-side of the ball, the Hokies are just as dominating. Big questions remain for Alabama's offense. First, can Greg McElroy, in his first year as the starting quarterback, lead the offense to a productive year. One has to imagine, that facing a powerhouse Virginia Tech in his debut game in front of a national audience has to be building the nerves for this kid. Then again, he does play in the SEC.
McElroy will be protected by an offensive line that has many questions. Losing two key starters to the NFL, the offensive line will have to battle back one of the fiercest front seven it has seen and may see this year. Should the line hold, McElroy will likely key in on wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will probably line up strong side on most plays leaving him to face Stephan Virgil who makes the move to boundary this year. Virgil will have to be on his A game to quell Jones's impact on the game. Another target to watch out for is tight end Colin Peek. Peek is a natural pass catcher. Peek transferred to Alabama from Georgia Tech where he had 256 yards receiving.
Mere days separate us from the start of the Hokies season. Can you feel it? Are you excited? Kickoff is at 8:07PM and will be nationally broadcast on ABC.