With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on Aug. 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Aug. 31 - vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
Sept. 7 - Western Carolina
Sept. 14 - at East Carolina
Sept. 21 - Marshall
Sept. 26 - at Georgia Tech
Oct. 5 - North Carolina
Oct. 12 - Pittsburgh
Oct. 19 - Open
Oct. 26 - Duke
Nov. 2 - at Boston College
Nov. 9 - at Miami
Nov. 16 - Maryland
Nov. 23 - Open
Nov. 30 - at Virginia
Schedule obtained from the official website of Virginia Tech athletics
After stringing together eight consecutive 10-win seasons, Virginia Tech is coming off a disappointing 2012 run that included a 7-6 finish. Although the Hokies took a step back a year ago, the expectations still remain, and the fans in Blacksburg will be far from thrilled if the outcome in 2013 isn't any better.
Unfortunately, a miracle would be required in order for this team to win its opening game. Alabama has won three of the last four BCS National Championships, and the Crimson Tide aren't going to suffer defeat at the hands of a Logan Thomas-led Virginia Tech program.
But while the first matchup may be too overwhelming for Frank Beamer's squad, the rest of the schedule stacks up somewhat favorably for major college football's winningest active coach. The Hokies won't have Clemson or Florida State in conference play, and the rest of their nonconference slate is definitely manageable.
Traveling to both Miami and Georgia Tech serves as a bit of a disadvantage, but a showdown against the evenly matched North Carolina Tar Heels in Lane Stadium could mean a lot in terms of where Virginia Tech finishes in the Coastal Division.
If Beamer wants his team to claim victory in those crucial games, certain players need to show major improvement from last season.
Thomas gives us reason to buy into the first-round discussions that surrounded him earlier in his career and turns last year's 16-interception disaster into a distant memory. The return of wide receiver D.J. Coles is a big reason for his success, and new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler helps establish the continuity that was lacking throughout 2012.
Defensive end James Gayle wins All-ACC honors, and J.R. Collins joins him on the best D-line in the conference. Cornerback Kyle Fuller and rover Kyshoen Jarrett hold things down in the secondary, and Tech is able to force more turnovers than it gives up.
After a respectable showing against Alabama, it is clear that big things are ahead for this Hokies team. Trips to Georgia Tech and Miami are tough, but Virginia Tech escapes both games with wins, and 11-1 reinvigorates the fanbase.
The offensive struggles carry over to 2013, and the team as a whole falters as a result. Thomas continues to have trouble with his accuracy, and lingering injuries minimize the effectiveness of running back J.C. Coleman.
Gayle fails to build off a promising 2011 campaign on the D-line, and cornerback Antone Exum isn't the same since tearing his ACL in January. The experience of defensive coordinator Bud Foster's unit helps, but it's not enough to make up for an offense that can't score points.
Alabama embarrasses Virginia Tech on national television, all but ending the game before halftime. East Carolina steals an upset victory a couple weeks later, and the Hokies go 0-3 in their matchups against the Canes, Jackets and Tar Heels. It's debatable whether or not this is even a middle-of-the-pack ACC team after a 5-7 finish.
Tech isn't going to win its first game, but it could win any of the following 11. Beamer has a third-year starter lining up under center and multiple all-conference candidates on defense. The offense has a chance to be solid, and the defense could prove to be among the best in the nation.
After last season, it's hard to call this team the favorite in its division. However, the Hokies are easily contenders. North Carolina was the only team in the Coastal to notch the eight-win mark in 2012, and Virginia Tech offers the most complete defense in the ACC.
A 9-3 finish is a reasonable prediction for Tech, but until the offense shows growth, don't expect anything more than that.
Also check out:
Schedule analysis for North Carolina
Schedule analysis for Duke
Schedule analysis for Pitt
Schedule analysis for Virginia
Schedule analysis for Clemson
Schedule analysis for Florida State
Schedule analysis for Boston College
Schedule analysis for Wake Forest
Schedule analysis for NC State
Schedule analysis for Maryland
Schedule analysis for Syracuse
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