Virginia Tech Hokies at Alabama Crimson Tide (at Atlanta)
College Football: Saturday September 5, 2009 8 PM EST
The Line: Alabama -6 1/2
Alabama opens the season for a second consecutive year against an ACC team in the Georgia Dome. Although it has a familiar sense about it, the similarities end there; Alabama is in a different place than they were a year ago, and Virginia Tech isn't Clemson.
A lot has stayed the same at Alabama. Julio Jones returns at wide receiver, and Terrance Cody returns to anchor the defense at the defensive tackle spot. A lot has changed, as well. Much of their offensive line has departed, including the Outland Trophy winner Andre Smith, as well as their starting QB in John Parker Wilson and their star running back Glenn Coffee.
I think most would agree that Alabama was way ahead of schedule last year, and not many had expectations of the team that they didn't far surpass.
With that being said, it was a disappointing end to the season. While the loss to Florida in the SEC Title game hurt, the Tide were an underdog in that game. The whooping they took at the hands of Utah in the Sugar Bowl probably left a bad taste in their mouths all offseason, though.
The successful run paid dividends for the Tide in recruiting, as it was a monster class including all world running back Trent Richardson, a guy who was on everyone's list.
Virginia Tech had a rough start last year, losing to East Carolina as Frank Beamer tried to maintain Tyrod Taylor's eligibility. I am sure Frank Beamer looks back at it as a huge mistake, but the Hokies managed to win the ACC Title and went to the Orange Bowl.
Bud Foster has been an absolute genius coaching the defense for Virginia Tech for the past 14 years, and they have been as good as anyone over that time. This team figures to be no different.
There are a few big factors and match-ups to look at in this game. Alabama's first-year starter at QB is up against a defense who lives off of mistakes and turnovers, feeding a Hokie offense that could benefit from the short field; however, when the Hokies have the ball, they won't have Darren Evans, last year's leading rusher who's out for the season.
This should be a defensive struggle. For those who love seeing a lot of points scored and guys running up and down the sidelines, you have come to the wrong place. The line has gone up significantly since Evans went down.
If we look at Beamer's record, he isn't perfect but his teams usually show up against the big teams in the big games. It's usually against the alsorans where he stumbles. While he's taken some losses over the years, very few are by more than a field goal.
I just think the points are too good to pass up.
Mitch's Pick: Virginia Tech +6 1/2