I remember back in 2002 and 2003 when UVA fans would call into a local radio show here in Roanoke, Virginia and complain about the “weak” schedule the Hokies had that season.
Even though Tech has played some less then stellar out of conference schedules in years past, 2009’s gauntlet seems to be one of the tougher schedules the Hokies have ever had.
Virginia Tech will have to start the season with an excellent Alabama team on the road in Atlanta, and then head home to face Marshall, Nebraska, and Miami to start off the season. Add road trips to Georgia Tech, Maryland, UVA, Duke, and ECU on a Thursday night and this is a pretty tough course that the Hokies are going to have to pass.
The good news for Hokie fans is that this should be one of our better all around football teams.
After stumbling through the middle part of last season, the Hokies turned it on won five of their last six games. The 2008 team destroyed Boston College in Tampa last December to win an ACC Championship then overpowered a lesser Big East team to win their first BCS Bowl game down in Miami.
This year should be another one to remember for Hokie fans as Tech gears up for a National Championship run heading into 2009.
So let’s take a look at this hellish schedule and see how the Hokies should fair this fall.
Alabama – Sept. 5 (Atlanta, GA)
The Crimson Tide marched into Atlanta last year and completely embarrassed the Clemson Tigers. This year, I just don’t see the Hokies rolling over like Clemson did last September.
Alabama has a lot of question marks heading into this game including finding an heir to the throne vacated by quarterback John Parker Wilson and running back Glen Coffee.
Also, as we saw in the Sugar Bowl last year, the Tide will need to sort out some issues on the offensive line as they were horrible without All-American Andre Smith.
However, as many question marks as Alabama has, it’s not like their short on talent.
Since Nick Saban has taken over, the Tide has pulled in the number one recruiting class, according to Rivals.com, the past two years. This game will be a slugfest that will come down to whichever team makes the fewest mistakes.
With the way Tech has played in big games against top ten teams over the past decade, I have a hard time picking VT here even though I think they are the better team.
Predictions: Virginia Tech – 13, Alabama – 17
Marshall – Sept 12 (Blacksburg, VA)
The Thundering Hurd did not have a very impressive 2008 campaign as they finished the season with just a 4-8 record.
For comparisons sake, they lost to Wisconsin 51-14, WVU 27-3, Cincinnati 33-10, and lost to ECU in overtime 19-16.
Their quarterback Mark Cann was just a freshman last season and did surprisingly well in his first year under center. Cann was accurate with the ball as he completed over 50-percent of his passes and amassed a 14 to 13 touchdown to interception ratio. Cann, however, is not very mobile, which means he will spend a good portion of this game on his back. The teams leading rusher, Junior Darius Marshall, returns after coming within one yard of an 1100 yard rushing season last year.
The Thundering Hurd’s defense was horrendous last year as they finished 102nd in the nation in total defense with 418 yards per game and 72nd in scoring defense at just over 27 points per game.
The Hokies are just too talented and should roll in this one fairly easily.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 43, Marshall – 10
Nebraska – Sept. 19 (Blacksburg, VA)
In Bo Pelini’s first year, the Cornhuskers saw a vast improvement from the previously Bill Callahan coached teams. Conversely, 2009 may be a small step back for the Huskers as far as their record will go.
Joe Ganz was the lifeblood of this team this past year and since he has now departed, Coach Pelini will have to find himself a new quarterback.
Junior Zac Lee appears to be the likely option with sophomore Patrick Witt deciding to transfer.
Also lost from 2008 were the Cornhusker’s top two wideouts in Todd Peterson and Nate Swift. With Marlon Lucky gone as well at running back, the Nebraska offense will look much different this fall.
On the other hand, you should see the Cornhusker defense take a step forward from last years 80th ranked scoring defense and 55th ranked total defense.
This one could be a close game since Tech did defeat Nebraska on their home turf last year, but I see the Hokies winning this one by a touchdown or more.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 27, Nebraska – 20
Miami – Sept. 26 (Blacksburg, VA)
The Hurricanes were by far the youngest team in the ACC last year. This year, that youth should mature a bit and you should see Miami return to being a competitive team once again.
The Canes did beat the Hokies last season 16-14, in one of the more frustrating football games I’ve ever watched.
This year, the Hokies get this game in Blacksburg and I don’t see Tech losing two in a row to Randy Shannon’s club. Tech is 4-2 again the Canes since 2003 and 9-5 against them since 1995.
Miami returns just about everybody from a season ago except quarterback Robert Marve who decided to transfer instead of having to battle Jacory Harris for playing time again this season.
I think Miami will be an improved team this year but I just don’t see them being up to the level of other teams in the Coastal division.
Prediction: Virginia Tech – 24, Miami - 14