Who has the best lights in town? Vote now for your favorite in our holiday lights contest.
Saturday, August 31, 2013
Let’s assume that Virginia Tech fans want to see a win tonight.
Let’s also acknowledge that this would be a ridiculous outcome to predict.
Everyone from Vegas linesmakers (’Bama by 19) to Tech coach Frank Beamer (“This is the best team that we’ve ever played”) understands the chasm between these squads on paper. This is the two-time defending national champs against a team that struggled to a 7-6 mark last year. Talent, experience and the bulk of the Georgia Dome crowd will be in ’Bama’s corner when the season opens at 5:30 p.m.
Given all this, could the Hokies lose this game and still get something out of it?
“For sure,” Tech linebacker Jack Tyler said. “Obviously it would be disappointing that we lost, because our expectations are so high, we expect to win. But if you play a team like Alabama and you play well, there’s always positives in that. You’re always going to gain something from that.”
That’s important to remember, even for those who desperately want to see a win. There’s a lot more at stake tonight than just a W or an L in the standings.
The season opener of the college football season is not the Daytona 500 — an event staged to much fanfare having almost no long-term predictive value. The season opener to a college football season establishes a clear baseline for the year. You learn a lot about what you have and what you don’t. And coming off their worst season in 20 years, the Hokies are eager to show their fans that they have something.
So here are five ways the Hokies can win tonight … even without winning:
1. Trey Edmunds rushes for 60 or more yards.
Why not 100? Why not 80? Well, you want a realistic chance to meet these goals, right? Alabama allowed an FBS-low 76 rushing yards per game last season and returns seven defensive starters, including three linebackers.
Against the Tide, 60 is the new 150.
The Hokies can't have a repeat of last season, where the running back position was in flux through the final game. They need somebody to emerge. And with J.C. Coleman out with an ankle injury, Edmunds gets to showcase potential against the best opponent he'll face all year.
2. The starting offensive line holds its ground.
Asking the Hokies to blow ’Bama off the ball would be laughable. Tech didn’t settle on its starting front five until last week. A freshman is debuting at left tackle.
But it would be a good sign if these guys can communicate and at least have a firm understanding of who is supposed to block whom. If they can put a hat on a hat and create a stalemate at the line tonight, perhaps they could get significant push against lesser opponents — something that hasn’t been a given in recent years.
3. Tech’s receivers haul in every reasonably catchable ball.
Forget whether they can get open frequently. Forget how far they get after the ball is in their hands. None of that matters if you can’t make the catch, and that’s a real question coming into this one.
Dropped balls have plagued the Hokies in practices and scrimmages. Eliminate those first, then move on to grander aspirations.
4. Tech’s defense sacks A.J. McCarron at least twice.
The Hokies have a chance here. Of all the positional matchups, Tech’s defensive line against Alabama’s offensive line is the most appealing to the Hokies.
While Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster notes that smart quarterbacks rarely take sacks anymore — and McCarron is smart — the Tide was tied for 54th in the country with 23 sacks allowed last season. That was before losing three All-American linemen.
5. Logan Thomas stays healthy.
We all want to see “The New, Meaner Logan” in action, but we might have to wait a bit to really see it. His supporting cast has to be better than it was last year (see Nos. 1-3) or it won’t matter how much he has improved his throwing mechanics or embraced his leadership role.
For now, the biggest key is not to get hurt.
If the Hokies can succeed on at least three of these goals, they’re onto something. If they can get four, even better.
All five? Well, that’s when the outcome of the game itself could come into play.
Weather JournalStorm track isn't very snowy for us