Most expect Alabama to begin another national championship run with a convincing victory over Virginia Tech on Saturday, August 31. An upset would shock the college football world.
The Hokies don't have many advantages heading into the nonconference matchup, but they do have a respectable quarterback in Logan Thomas. The senior returned to Virginia Tech to get the program back on track and he could start by upsetting the No. 1 team in the country.
No position is as powerful as the quarterback, and if he plays well, Alabama could start the season off on the wrong foot.
Where's the Confidence?
Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy. - Norman Vincent Peale
Before Thomas takes the field or begins sizing up the incredible Alabama defense, he must have a little pep in his step. The quarterback from last season should be long gone and the struggles that took place should be forgotten.
This is a new game and new season, and there should be a new quarterback.
Like with anything in life, confidence is everything. If you don't believe you can get the pretty girl's phone number before you approach her, you will likely remain single.
If Thomas can't envision himself playing out of his mind and upsetting Alabama, Virginia Tech is sure to begin the season with a loss.
It's no secret Thomas had a disappointing season in 2012-13, and it was followed by a lot of bad body language that didn't help the team improve. The quarterback is the leader and should always do what he can to keep his team in good spirits. Hanging his head and pouting on the bench aren't going to get it done.
Playing a great game starts in the locker room, when a player has a little time to himself to get prepared for what's about to take place. Thomas must see himself leading his team to victory.
Confidence is just as key as studying X's and O's and knowing the opponent.
Don't Cough Up the Football
The most obvious key for Thomas is to avoid turnovers. He has thrown a combined 26 interceptions over the last two seasons, including 16 last year.
It's hard enough to beat Alabama by playing a perfect game. When turning the ball over, it becomes impossible.
Alabama is 22-1 during the last three seasons when the defense forces at least two turnovers. Virginia Tech was 1-5 last season when Thomas threw at least two interceptions. The statistics clearly show who will win the game if Thomas continues to be careless with the football.
Thomas also struggled in the Virginia Tech spring game, throwing three interceptions—two of which were returned for touchdowns.
However, according to Norm Wood of the Daily Press, Thomas feels he has learned from his mistakes.
"I'm not going to have 16 interceptions," said Thomas, who last year tied for the most interceptions by a Tech quarterback in a season since 1972. "I can promise you that."
Regardless of the number of interceptions thrown during the season, Thomas can't throw any in the game against Alabama. Virginia Tech isn't talented enough to overcome turnovers, especially with the offense replacing seven starters.
No matter what the game plan is to defeat the Crimson Tide, Thomas must protect the football with his life if the Hokies are to stand a chance.
Take Chances When It Counts
While protecting the football and taking chances may contradict themselves, Thomas must find the middle ground between playing too conservatively and too recklessly.
If a receiver has one-on-one coverage deep with no safety help, giving his teammate a chance to make the play may be worth the risk.
However, throwing the ball into double and triple coverage is not the best idea.
Thomas needs to take advantage of the opportunities Alabama gives him, because it's tough to pull off an upset without a few big plays and a little luck involved.
It's the plays where Thomas didn't see the middle linebacker or the safety that cost the team last season. If he can do a better job of reading coverage and taking advantage of mismatches, Virginia Tech will be a threat.
Although Alabama's defense is the best in the country, it did allow 25 passing plays of 25 or more yards last year, which was eighth in the SEC.
As it stands, the secondary lost its best cornerback to the NFL draft in Dee Milliner. The Associated Press (h/t USA Today) reported that the team will also be without corner Geno Smith, who was suspended for the season opener after a DUI arrest.
Thomas has the arm strength to put the ball downfield and give his receivers a chance, while Alabama has the tendency to give up the big play.
If the Hokies' senior quarterback can connect on a few deep passes, an upset in the Georgia Dome could be brewing.