Alabama has seemed to receive a favorable SEC schedule for several consecutive seasons. While the Crimson Tide might not have any control over their conference schedule, they do have control over their nonconference schedule.
Alabama continues to schedule big-name programs a few years out. However, the teams somehow end up in a down stretch right before the Alabama game.
Last season Alabama scheduled Big Ten powerhouse Michigan; however, before the Wolverines' game versus the Tide, they were forced to suspend their star running back.
This year the victim is Virginia Tech, who was already on a decline. To make matters worse, the Hokies' roster has been decimated by suspensions and injuries.
Alabama tried to schedule a more formidable foe, but fate and Virginia Tech did not keep their end of the bargain.
How Virginia Tech Could Win This Ballgame
The simple answer is that the Crimson Tide players and coaching staff come down with a modern-day case of leprosy and have to immediately leave the state to be quarantined. Outside of that, this will be a win for the Crimson Tide.
I don't mean that statement as disrespect to the Hokies or mean for it to over-hype Alabama. However, it has been a dismal offseason for Frank Beamer and company.
For this game to stay close, Alabama's head coach will need to call off the Tide early. We have seen this in the past. As callous as Nick Saban can be at times, he has always had a great deal of respect for the game and the legends of the game. His conservative game plan against Penn State and Joe Paterno is a prime example.
The Hokies will not be able to run the ball on Alabama because Virginia Tech will be trotting out running back Trey Edmunds, who should be fourth on their depth chart.
Former RB Michael Holmes was kicked off the team during the offseason, then running back Joel Caleb received a one-game suspension—and when things seemed as if they couldn't get worse, J.C. Coleman is either out or slowed down considerably with two injured ankles.
Virginia Tech does have a solid dual-threat quarterback in Logan Thomas, who is entering his third season as starting quarterback. Thomas has totaled 6,982 total yards and 57 total touchdowns for the Hokies.
Thomas will have to make plays with his feet and his arm if the Hokies are going to keep it close.
How Alabama Could Win This Ballgame
Everything for the Crimson Tide starts and ends with defense. In my opinion, the Tide are most vulnerable in the passing game because of the lack of a consistent pass rush and a potentially inconsistent secondary.
Fortunately for Alabama, Thomas has a reputation of being a turnover machine. Thomas has put up amazing offensive numbers; however, he has also turned the ball over at an alarming rate. Thomas has thrown 26 interceptions over the past two seasons, including at least one interception in eight of his 12 games last season.
The Tide should be able to stop the run with little resistance, and if they can cause turnovers in the secondary, the game will be over by halftime.
On offense, Alabama's game plan is a tossup because the Tide can beat the Hokies with the running game or the passing game. I expect to see more big plays out of the passing game this season because the Tide should have their best set of wide receivers in school history.
ESPN noted that senior quarterback AJ McCarron was spotted in a walking boot yesterday, and Alabama could be very cautious with him, though it was for the apparently minor problem of an ingrown toenail.
Running back TJ Yeldon will have another solid game to start the season, but as soon as the defense sinks in, look for the Tide to go deep in the passing game.
The Tide will play their second consecutive game without much competition. However, I do think after Alabama jumps out to a quick lead, Saban will save Virginia Tech as much embarrassment as possible.
Score Prediction: Alabama 38 Virginia Tech 13
Stat Line: Amari Cooper two touchdowns.