Virginia Tech Vs. Alabama: Keys to Victory
Let me preface this article with the fact that I am a huge Alabama fan. I have made every attempt to look at this match-up from an objective stand point. Objectively or not, this game is certain to be the jewel of week one.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Offense: Mix it up! Keep Bama's defense guessing. Alabama is loaded with talent, especially at linebacker. Running the ball up the gut isn't going to cut it with Terrance Cody upfront. Neutralize him by utilizing those backs and spreading the field in different formations. A variety of play action, swing passes, and quick outs will keep the linebackers in coverage as opposed to getting comfortable in the box.
Throw the ball deep every now and then. The great thing about the deep ball is that you don't necessarily have to complete it. Just the threat of the bomb will keep those DBs out of press coverage and the safeties honest.
Get Tyrod Taylor outside the pocket. Let's face it, Tyrod Taylor isn't a fantastic passer. A 2:1 INT/TD ratio illustrates that. Nothing frustrates defenders more than a QB who may, at any moment, take off for 8 or 10 yards.
Defense: Make a stand early! Alabama outscored its opponents by a 10-to-1 margin in the first quarter in 2008. If they get you in a 17-0 situation, they will start to eat up some major clock with that running game. This is exactly what happened to Georgia and Clemson last year.
Contain Julio Jones without a double team. This is the one that may be impossible. It is hard to contain running backs as talented as Alabama's with Nickel and Dime packages, especially if you are devoting more than one defender to Julio Jones. Put your most physical DB in his face and jam him as he comes off the line. Punch him in the face if you have to.
Pressure Pressure Pressure! Alabama's offensive line is big and beefy but has yet to jell. Losing Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell to the NFL certainly didn't help matters. Blitz Greg McElroy and make him adapt to the speed of your defense. If he can't distribute the ball to Jones, McCoy, and Maze then you can focus on stopping the run.
Special Teams: Do not let Arenas make big returns. Javier Arenas has the aptitude to break a kick return at any moment. Contain him and make Bama drive the ball.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Offense: Establish the run. Nothing helps an inexperienced QB more than a solid running game. Linebackers fill the box, safeties cheat in, and suddenly the passing game becomes a lot easier. An occasional draw play in blitzing scenarios may keep those Tech linebackers honest and make them think twice about storming Greg McElroy.
Move Julio Jones around. Last year Julio Jones made an immediate impact as a freshman. He is a brute and a physical anomaly. Last year's offense kept Jones primarily in one spot on the field. This year those defensive backs have wised up. Use motion and make them audible their coverages.
Dominate that clock! Alabama has extreme depth at the running back position (4 backs of 4-star quality or better). Keeping fresh legs in the game will make any defense tired and keep Tech's scoring opportunities low.
Defense: Keep Tyrod Taylor in the pocket. No arguments will be made that Tyrod Taylor isn't a great athlete, but history has dictated to this point that his passing skills are substandard. Do not allow him to beat you with his legs. Blitzing from outside angles such as from the corner and from the "Jack" linebacker spot will make him either make a quick decision and throw into coverage or run into Terrance Cody and Rolando McClain.
Locate the running backs out of the backfield. Alabama has to put a jersey on David Wilson, Ryan Williams, and Josh Oglesby. If those guys get loose in space it could make for big plays.
Big, nasty hits! Make those Tech backs and receivers think twice about coming across the middle with some nasty, lip curling hits. Introduce them to the SEC.
Special Teams: Don't fall victim to Beamer-Ball. Virginia Tech has always found a way to score points on special teams. Do not let them block any kicks.
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