Sunday, August 30

Virginit Tech vs Alabla Game Preview

Virginia Tech and Alabama are set to kickoff next Saturday night in a game, which could have national title implications in week one of the season. While a loss would not eliminate either team from national title contention, it would deeply hamper their chances.

The Hokies head into this game after completing one of the most memorable seasons to date. With a two-quarterback system, and a lot of freshmen in the two deep, the Hokies were able to win their first ever BCS bowl game.

On the flip side, Alabama came up one win short of a trip to Miami, which would have gave them a shot at the title against Oklahoma. However, Alabama lost their last two games of the year after rolling through the first twelve games of the season undefeated.

As you can tell, there are reasons for both teams to be confident heading into this showdown.

But, according to the college football rulebook, only one team may walk away victorious next Saturday night.

In this article we will examine both sides of the football for both teams and try to reach a logical conclusion on who should win this game.

First off, we will examine both teams offense.


At quarterback, the Hokies return junior Tyrod Taylor. Taylor has developed into a leader on offense so far this preseason now that he no longer has to share snaps with the departed Sean Glennon.

The challenger on Alabama will be redshirt junior Greg McElroy who will be starting his first ever college football game next Saturday night. McElroy isn’t a slouch either as he won the MVP award at the Manning Passing Academy this past summer.
Obviously, Taylor does have the experience factor in his favor and he does have the ability to make more happen with his legs.

McElroy has a very good arm but with almost no game film on the fourth year junior, it’s tough to determine what type of quarterback he’ll be next Saturday.
And the winner is: Virginia Tech

Although I think McElroy has a higher ceiling than Tyrod, it will be Tyrod’s experience in big games that will ultimately help Virginia Tech win this game on Saturday. If Tyrod has a bad game then the pendulum will swing back in Alabama’s favor but if Tyrod plays like he’s capable of, Tech will be hard to beat.

Running Back:

At running back, the Hokies will be without their budding star in Darren Evans after he tore his ACL earlier this preseason. However, Tech has plenty of weapons still available in the backfield with redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, sophomore Josh Oglesby, and true freshman David Wilson receiving most of the carries.

Alabama also has a stable of backs that they’ll use against Bud Foster’s defense. The Tide lost their backup running back for the season when Jeramie Griffin tore his ACL in practice just a few days after Evans went down for the Hokies. Mark Ingram will assume the starting role from a departed Glen Coffee while Roy Upchurch and highly touted newcomer Trent Richardson also receives some of the carries.

Mark Ingram may finish with the most rushing yards in this game but all eyes will be upon the Hokies Ryan Williams, who was a highly recruiting running back out of northern Virginia two years ago. Williams is a slash and dash type of runner and could be more effective against Alabama than Darren Evans who was more of a power runner.

And the winner is: Alabama

If the Hokies had Evans I would have picked them here with ease but without their workhorse, Alabama definitely has the better stable as of now. Ryan Williams will be heavily depended on to make some big plays and if he can’t deliver, the steady rushing attack of Bama could be the determining factor in this game.

Wide Receiver:

At wide receiver, the Hokies have amassed some quality depth and should be able to go five deep this year. Redshirt freshman Xavier Boyce, sophomore Danny Coale, and sophomore Dyrell Roberts will be the starting trio for this game. While the Hokies group isn’t as sexy as Alabama’s, they will be a vital part of the offense in this game since the Hokies won’t be able to live by the ground game this Saturday.

The Crimson Tide has one of the best wide receivers in the nation in sophomore Julio Jones but the rest of their receiving corps are on the same level as Virginia Tech’s. Junior Darius Hanks and senior Mike McCoy should provide some more options for McElroy if Jones is covered down field.

And the winner is: Alabama

While the Hokies have a lot of quality receivers and depth at the position, they lack a true deep threat like the Tide’s Julio Jones. Tech has been burned by some talented receivers in the past (Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald) so it appears likely that Jones will be able to get some catches on Saturday night.

Offensive Line:

The offensive line could be where this game is either won or lost. The Hokies have finally returned to their original form after taking about a six year detour. Tech has surprisingly won ten games each of the past three years with possibly the worst offensive lines in recent history.

This season should finally be the year where the line improves enough to take the pressure off the quarterback and allow the QB and the running backs to do their job. Also, the Hokies have the number one offensive guard in the nation in senior Sergio Render according to NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr.

On the flipside, Alabama has to replace three starters from last year’s offensive line including All American Andre Smith. Alabama struggled against Utah last season without Smith on the end of the line and those question marks still loom heading into this 2009 season.

And the winner is: Virginia Tech

Finally, the Hokies should have one of the better lines in the ACC this year after the transformation from Stinespring to Newsome is nearing completion. Alabama still has some quality linemen but they’re starting five is a lot less proven than the Hokies starting unit and depth is a bit of a question mark for the Tide.

Defensive Line:

The Hokies have boasted a top ten defense each of the past five seasons, including two years of being number one in both total and scoring defense. This season looks to continue that success as Tech returns seven starters on defense from last year’s squad.

Alabama returns eight players from last years defense, which ranked ahead of the Hokies last season. The Tide’s front seven stays largely intact with nose tackle Terrance Cody returning for his final season in an Alabama uniform. Cody is a 365 pound monster that will test the Hokies more athletic offensive line.

Tech returns three of their four starters along the defensive line in defensive end Jason Worilds, and defensive tackles John Graves and Taco Thompson.

Alabama has to replace their best pass rusher in Bobby Greenwood, but returns everyone else along the line including Mount Cody at nose tackle.

The Winner is: Push

It’s hard to compare a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense since their almost polar opposites of each other. But in this case I like Alabama’s front three just as much as I do Tech’s front four. Stopping the run will be the primary focus of both teams in this game so with Cody in the middle of the Alabama line, I could see the Tide’s d-line out playing the Hokies to an extent.


The Crimson Tide may possess the most talented and athletic linebackers in the nation in junior Rolando McClain, sophomore, Dont’a McClain, senior Eryk Aders, and senior Cory Reamer.

Tech’s linebackers may not be as glorious as Alabama’s but they should be able to get the job done next weekend. Senior Cody Grimm is a bit undersized but came close to leading the team in tackles and sacks last season, as a backup. Sophomores Jake Johnson and Barquell Rivers will be Tech’s two inside linebackers this season.

And the winner is: Alabama

The Tide will feature at least three future NFL’ers on this linebacker corps, including a future first rounder in Rolando McClain. The Tide depend on their linebackers making big hits and if they play well, it could be lights outs for the Hokies ground game on Saturday.

Defensive Backs:

While it appears that Alabama has the better front seven, the Hokies will clearly have the advantage in the defensive backs category. Tech returns seniors Kam Chancellor at free safety and Stephan Virgil at cornerback. Also, Tech has two talented players at rover in senior Dorian Porch and junior Davon Morgan.

The Tide is a bit more pedestrian at defensive back when compared to their front seven. Senior Javier Arenas is a bit on the small side at 5’9” but packs a punch and is very physical at the point of attack. Junior Kareem Jackson will start opposite of Arenas at cornerback alongside sophomore Robby Green at free safety and senior Justin Woodall at strong safety.

And the winner is: Virginia Tech

Tech has become DB-U over the past few seasons and this year will be no different as
the Hokies should put three of their four starters in the NFL come this time next season. Kam Chancellor and Stephan Virgil both appear to be first day selections while Porch will fall somewhere in the later rounds. Also the Hokies do have a bit more depth at these positions than Alabama, which also gives the Hokies as leg up here.

Special Teams:

Leigh Tiffin is “Money” around Tuscaloosa and is poised for a big senior year before heading off to the NFL. Tiffin has a strong leg and could give Alabama a bit of a leg up in this game.

The Hokies will have a new starter at kicker this season in senior Matt Waldron who finished 10-for-10 in all three of the Hokies preseason scrimmages.

And the winner is: Virginia Tech

Special teams is all about experience and it’s hard to go against the man who made great special teams famous. Beamer has rededicated himself to making his “Pride and Joy” teams some of the best they’ve ever had in Blacksburg. Even though I would give the edge to Alabama in the kicking aspect with Tiffin lining up for field goals, the Hokies should be better in every other aspect.


If history is any indication of what’s about to take place Saturday night, the Hokies will probably lose this game. Tech is 1-24 all-time against top five foes and just 6-43 against top 10 teams. Their lone top five win came against the mighty Miami Hurricanes just a few years back.

Also the Crimson Tide is 5-0 against the Hokies all-time while they are ranked in the top 10. Of course, the last meeting between the two teams where Alabama was ranked in the top 10 was back in 1979.

Some stats also favor the Hokies as Tech beat Alabama back in 1998 38-7 in the Inaugural Music City Bowl, which was the last time these two teams faced. Also, Coach Beamer is 1-0 lifetime against Nick Saban when Saban’s LSU Tigers marched into Blacksburg and lost back in 2002 by a score of 26-8.
And the winner will be….

It’s hard to say who will win this game, but if history is any indication I’ll go with Alabama just because their defense is the only group I can say is better than Coach Foster’s in Blacksburg. Offensively I think the Hokies are ahead of Alabama but with Stinespring still as coordinator, you never really know what to expect from that group.

The only thing I’m certain of is that this will be an extremely hard fought and physical football game in which either team could emerge victorious.
And if you’re a betting man, why not take the Hokies If any program is due for a big win on a grand stage, it’s Virginia Tech.

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