2009 is supposed to be the Hokies' year to shine. An exciting quarterback, an exciting stable of running backs, newly experienced wide receivers, and a punishing defense are going to try to make sure this really happens.
There are a few key matchups that will be exciting and potentially heart-stopping to watch along the way.
Virginia Tech's defense vs. Georgia Tech's offense
Is it the wishbone, is it the triple option, or does it really matter what you call it? Paul Johnson has installed a running game at Georgia Tech that has most defenses scratching their heads at how to stop it.
They are scary on first downs, especially when Jonathan Dwyer gets the ball. Last year, he averaged almost seven yards per carry, and they were still able to move the ball very successfully in the second half.
However, not so fast my friends, as Lee Corso would say. Last year's Hokie defense held Dwyer to 28 yards on 10 carries and took advantage of the fact that Georgia Tech kept it on the ground long enough to commit two fumbles, which ended up being key to the game.
This year, the Hokies must continue to do the same thing—shut down the running game—and force the Yellow Jackets to take to the air, a pattern they are less familiar with and confident in.
Alabama's front seven vs. VT's offensive line
Alabama's front seven is very talented and very big. They average about 271 lbs. and have arguably the best tackle in football in Terrence Cody. It is not likely that Cody will allow the Hokies to run the ball straight ahead much during this game. It would obviously make more sense for the Hokies to try to utilize the ends of their defensive front.
However, the Tide is still very stingy against the run. It will be interesting to see how they decide to counter the potential playmaking ability of someone like Tyrod Taylor.
Look for Alabama to mostly content themselves with trying to force the Hokies to drive the field and earn any big yardage. The Hokies are probably going to have to take to the air in order to get much moving on offense.
VT's defense vs. Mobile Quarterbacks
Although the Hokies continue to have a punishing defense, there were several occasions last season where they had a bit of trouble with mobile quarterbacks. Both Western Kentucky and Virginia successfully used a read-type option to confuse the Hokie defense and gain some big yards on the ground.
Vic Hall, a cornerback turned quarterback for UVA, burned the Hokies for 109 yards, and Dexter Taylor of Western Kentucky gave the Hokie defense a headache before they adjusted to being able to stop the read. Georgia Tech also used this some with Tim Nesbitt, who gained over 150 yards rushing against the Hokies.
Look for both UVA and Georgia Tech to see if they can have success with this again. However, also look for Bud Foster and the Hokie defense to be ready for it this time.
Look for these and other matchups to keep the season exciting. The Hokies had a pretty small margin of victory last year in almost all of their conference games. This year may or may not be any different, but that is what makes college football so exciting week after week.