The Virginia Tech Hokies begin the 2013 season with a daunting task—playing defending national champion Alabama in the Georgia Dome.
However, after the season's first week, the Hokies have a schedule that should help them bounce back from their worst record in 20 years. The Hokies finished 2012 with a record of 7-6, and just by looking at the 2013 schedule, they should win eight games at the most.
Fortunately for the Hokies, after meeting Alabama, they host Western Carolina the following week in Blacksburg. The first conference opponent for the Hokies doesn't come until September 26 when they travel back to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech.
Here is a power ranking of the Hokies' 2013 schedule from easiest to toughest.
This is the first meeting between the two schools and that bodes well for the Hokies. The Western Carolina Catamounts were one of the worst teams in the FCS last season with a record of 1-10.
Regardless of what happens in the season opener, the Hokies will have an easy Week 2 against Western Carolina. There is absolutely no chance for an upset in this game.
Marshall has traditionally been a good program. However, they haven't fared too well versus the Hokies. The Hokies have won the last seven meetings between the schools.
Marshall and East Carolina are similar programs, but the Pirates have been a tougher foe for the Hokies in recent seasons, therefore, the Thundering Herd are a less difficult matchup for the Hokies in 2013.
East Carolina has become a traditional non-conference foe for the Hokies in recent seasons. The Pirates even pulled off an upset over the Hokies back in 2008. Overall, the Hokies have dominated the series, but the Pirates play them tough.
Playing at East Carolina in September makes this a game to watch for college football fans. While they may be ranked this low on the list of Virginia Tech's toughest opponents in 2013, they could conceivably surprise everyone and upset the Hokies.
The Hokies and Maryland Terrapins have played one another a total of 30 times, with each team winning 15 games. However, since Virginia Tech entered the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have won all four meetings by a combined 105 points.
Maryland has struggled under third-year coach Randy Edsall. Expect those struggles to continue in 2013. The Hokies will be excited to host the Terrapins in a mid-November game after two conference road games.
The Hokies have won the last 12 meetings against the Blue Devils. Duke has played the Hokies tough on two occasions in recent years, however, more often than not, they've been manhandled by much more talented Virginia Tech teams.
Under David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils have improved drastically the past three years. Duke still isn't a threat to move up too high in the ACC standings, but they will play everyone tough.
2013 is a make-or-break year for Virginia's fourth-year head coach Mike London. The Cavaliers were 4-8 in 2012, but are poised to improve on that mark in 2013.
The Hokies' dominance over the Cavaliers, they've won the past nine meetings and 13 of the last 14, is the primary reason Virginia is ranked this low.
Steve Addazio enters his first season as head coach of Boston College amid low expectations. The Eagles have struggled since Matt Ryan's departure to the NFL after the 2007 season.
Traveling to Chestnut Hill is always a tough task for the Hokies. The Eagles will play them tough and came close to beating them last year.
2013 is Pitt's debut season in the ACC. The Hokies can't be happy about seeing the Panthers on their schedule after the way Pitt dismantled them last season.
Thankfully for the Hokies, this game is in Blacksburg, and several of the players who starred for the Panthers in that game, no longer play there.
The Hokies opened the 2012 season with a thrilling overtime win against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Much like 2012, Georgia Tech is the Hokies' first conference opponent, but this game will be played in late September.
Georgia Tech's triple-option offense was tough on Bud Foster's defense early in Paul Johnson's tenure in Atlanta. However, the Hokies have won the past three meetings primarily because Foster found a way to slow down the high-powered rushing attack.
Second-year head coach Larry Fedora has changed the culture in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels' troubles with the NCAA are well-chronicled, but Fedora's exciting, fast-paced offense took North Carolina fans' minds off of what was happening away from the field with an 8-4 record in 2012.
The Tar Heels travel to Blacksburg this season and the game could be a tossup. Both teams appear to be evenly matched, but the Hokies hope the home-field advantage provides the difference in this game.
Much like the North Carolina game, this game is a tossup. While these aren't the Miami Hurricanes of old, head coach Al Golden has this group headed in the right direction.
The Hurricanes are arguably the Hokies' biggest rival, and home field has proven to be crucial in this matchup in recent years. The Hokies will travel to Coral Gables in 2013, which is why this game is ranked as the second-toughest matchup for the Hokies this season.
As usual, Alabama is No. 1. The Hokies couldn't have a tougher matchup in Week 1 than playing the two-time defending national champions.
The Crimson Tide are replacing several former stars who are now in the NFL, but they are used to that. So, that is not an advantage. However, playing them in the season's first week is the Hokies' best chance at pulling off the upset.