Last season was a strange time for me. It was the first season I didn't watch (either live, on the Internet, TV or in person) every Virginia Tech football game in 20 years. I've already outlined why I chose to do that, with the straw that broke the camel's back being the catch that they robbed from Danny Coale in the 2012 Sugar Bowl. As a result I only watched the Hokie wins last season and thank God for that, because if I hadn't made that decision I can only imagine how beyond miserable my life would have been.
Speaking of miserable, that's what the Hokie's chances look like going up against the two-time defending national champion, semi-pro Alabama Crimson Tide in the kickoff game on Saturday. Thirty-one Hokies on the travel roster are true or redshirt freshmen. At least seven projected players from the two-deep headed into the spring have either left the team voluntarily or non-voluntarily or are injured and out/questionable for the game. Now if you want details about who's in or out, what the spread is, what Nick Saban eats for breakfast or countless other factoids about the game, there are limitless places to find that on the 'Net. But you're here to see an off-the-wall look at the upcoming game so here we go:
Ok, so the odds haven't looked this bad since 300 Spartans stood at Thermopylae against the countless hordes of Persians. But I think there are two angles that I think people are overlooking. First of all, it may play out like people expect and the Hokies lose the game, but just as those Spartans eventually lost to the Persians, in their valiant effort they inspired a larger victory in the broader war and the Greeks did expel the Persians from their lands. The Hokies, if they rise to this occasion and play well, it could absolutely serve as the catalyst to bring the team together and contend for an ACC title in 2013.
Second of all, the Hokies could actually win the game. Let's be honest, the talent gap favors 'Bama, that much is clear. But it's not like the talent gap between Michigan and Appalachian State in the Wolverines stunning loss in 2007. And that game was played in Ann Arbor. It's not like the talent gap between Jacksonville State and Ole Miss back in 2010 when the Rebs lost, also at home. This is a neutral site game and though the Tide have the advantage in a few areas, the Hokies are fielding what has the potential to be the best defense since the '07 ACC Championship season.
And the first game of the season is a wildcard to begin with. The players may or may have not fully picked up the scheme. A blown coverage here, a missed assignment there and a few gamechanging plays could also go VT's way. Of course, the Hokies are also susceptible to these types of mistakes, I'm just saying we won't know which way that cookie crumbles until after kickoff.
And the biggest reason I feel like the Hokies have a chance in this game is because of how much sits on Alabama's shoulders. They come in the prohibitive favorite, the team attempting to go for a three-peat national title which would be the first time since the 1940's that would have happened. If the Hokies keep the game close, suddenly the pressure rises. Doubt can begin to creep into the Alabama players' minds. The image that is burned indelibly in my mind is AJ McCarron after that LSU game when they went on their game winning drive late last season, sitting on the sidelines in absolute tears of relief. So much is piled on this team's shoulders, it could lead to playing tight. The Hokies on the other hand are in the position they've always excelled in - a chip on their shoulder with everyone betting against them. It's what Coach Beamer built the program on back in the Big East days. You can almost hear and see Rodney Dangerfield on this team, adjusting his tie talking about "I don't get no respect".
Of course, the Tide do still have a defense filled with future NFL draft picks and two studs at RB and WR in TJ Yeldon and Amari Cooper, with a senior QB in McCarron. And Nick Saban is obviously one of the best, if not the best coach in the business. Besides, I'm not even watching the game live, or on delay if the Hokies lose. So the Hokies will be down one loud screaming voice supporting them.
And so knowing that's the place I'm at as a fan now, and facing a nearly unbeatable opponent to kick off the new season, with half a dozen key players either having left the Hokies or sitting out injured and 31 freshmen on the travel squad, I can understand someone wondering what the hell business do I have being so incredibly excited about Saturday's game in the Georgia Dome vs. Alabama?
The answer: I'm still stone cold crazy. I may have found a more successful way to address my illness by only watching Hokie wins in order to save my TV, my household furniture and my children's view of their father, but just like every other year the sleepless nights have started this week and that pit is forming in the very bottom of my stomach. Virginia Tech football is about to take the field again and while I'll only know if I'll be watching the game Saturday night after it's over, you can be 100% certain of this fact - if the Hokies win, I'll watch the game twice back-to-back staying up however late that night it takes.
As always (and for the first time in 2013) - GO HOKIES!!!!!!!!!!