Virginia Tech vs. Boise State: Who Will Prevail in Huge Week 1 Contest?
The day has finally arrived. College football is here. However, the kickoff to the week's biggest game will have to wait a bit longer. Virginia Tech and Boise State will meet at FedEx Field in Landover, MD on Monday night, in a preseason top 10 matchup.
Both teams are playing for more than a win; they're playing for a shot at a possible national title. It would be devastating to each team's national championship aspirations if they lose, but you would have to think Boise State would be completely out of the discussion if Virginia Tech wins.
The Hokies come into 2010 with loads of talent on offense. The defense lost seven starters to graduation or players forgoing their senior year to enter the NFL Draft, and Barquell Rivers is expected to miss the game with an injury. That means the Hokies will only have three defensive starters from last season on the field Monday night; a strong contrast to the 21 starters the Broncos have returning on both sides of the ball.
That being said, Virginia Tech will prove Monday night that they're more than the 10th ranked team in the nation. The Hokies will show that they're a national power, a legtimate title contender and prove why they were picked to win their third ACC title in four years.
Here are a few reasons why Boise State, although favored in the game, will lose to Virginia Tech on Labor Day.
The Hokies Rushing Attack
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Virginia Tech comes into 2010 with arguably the best rushing attack in the nation. Ryan Williams and Darren Evans are expected to get the bulf of the carries, and David Wilson will also contribute. This is bad news for the Broncos who ranked 28th nationally against the run last year, but hold on.
According to Kyle Tucker of the Virginia Pilot, Boise State faced six of the top 60 running backs last year, and gave up over 800 yards rushing and eight touchdowns to these six players. Usually last season's stats are irrelevant, but when you return 10-of-11 starters they have more meaning.
What's going to be tough for Boise State is stopping the run. Even if they're able to slow down one back, there are two more that can blow you away. On top of that, Taylor has looked very impressive the entire offseason so you can't focus primarily on the run. The playaction pass could be the Hokies greatest weapon on Monday night.
Williams and Evans will be in the backfield at the same time on multiple occassions, adding to the unenviable task facing the Boise State defense. Even if the aerial attack isn't working, the ground game should be rolling on all cylinders.
Look for the Hokies to run the ball close to 40 times, maybe more. A ground-and-pound style offense is what the Hokies want, and it's definitely one aspect of their offense this season. This ground game will wear down the defense, and allow the Hokies to pull away in the fourth quarter.
Tyrod Taylor Will Prove He's a National Threat
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Taylor has had an interesting career to say the least. That being said, the senior is ready to break out in his final year at Virginia Tech. The coaching staff couldn't be happier with Taylor's performance, and head coach Frank Beamer has said on multiple occassions that Taylor is the leader of this football team, and has compared him to Michael Vick at times.
Taylor will have to be a leader on Monday night. He's more than just a game manager now. Taylor is a legitimate threat with his arm, and he really came in on the second half of last season. Taylor was among the nation's leaders in passing efficiency and he can also hurt you with his legs. The senior is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation, and he will prove that against Boise State.
That being said, Taylor shouldn't need to have a dominate performance in order to beat the Broncos. The rushing game is likely to do the brunt of the work, but having Taylor under center just adds to the Hokies advantage in this game.
He's now in his fourth season, and second season as a full-time starter. Don't be surprised if you see the coaching staff come out and throw the ball on the first five plays of the game. They've done it before to catch the defense off guard, and then they'll starting pounding the ball on the ground.
Taylor has weapons around him this year, experienced weapons, which is another reason Boise State won't be able to hang with the Hokies. Look for Taylor to be very efficient, throwing for around 200 yards with limited mistakes.
Don't Underestimate The Hokies Defensive Secondary
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The Hokies replace three starters in their defensive secondary, but it's led by Rashad Carmichael who will be the second most experienced starter on the field for the Hokies Monday night. Safety Davon Morgan, who started multiple games last season before an injury ended his year, is back and will play along side Eddie Whitley.
Jayron Hosley is the other cornerback, and Cris Hill will also get some action. This is a very athletic unit, and one that will be tested over-and-over again against Boise State. Kellen Moore threw 39 touchdowns last year and only three interceptions, so it's going to be tough matchup. The Broncos are going to score points, but they won't be able to score enough.
In order to maximize this secondary's performance, the defensive line is going to have to step up and play well. John Graves and Stephen Friday will lead the way, but they'll need Antoine Hopkins and Chris Drager to step up and play well. The defensive line will help the linebackers blitz up the middle, and the more pressure you get on any quarterback the better.
However, if the defensive line underperforms the secondary should still be okay. Expect the Broncos to really go after Hosley early in the game. Boise is unlikely to throw at Carmichael on a consistent basis because he's the best player in the secondary and the most experienced. Hosley is unproven and the pressure will be on the sophomore early in the game.
Look for Morgan to be very active in this one. The coaching staff has been using him in a number of positions, including whip linebacker due to injuries that have depleted that unit. Morgan will serve as the Hokies all-purpose defensive back Monday night, and his performance will have an affect on the defense's success.
Beamer Ball Anyone?
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Beamer has said multiple times this offseason that this is the best punt blocking team he's had in a long time. It's shown in practice. The Hokies have blocked multiple punts and have taken a few in for touchdowns.
In fact, the special teams has looked so good it has led Beamer to growing concerned about his second string punt team. However, at Virginia Tech the best players play on special teams, which is different from many, if not all of the programs in football anywhere.
Usually your stars sit out when the special teams is on the field but not at Virginia Tech. Guys want to play on special teams and they're excited to play on special teams. It's led to good results in the past, and expect to see another strong performance out of the unit on Labor Day.
The Hokies have had to rely on Beamer Ball the last couple of seasons to score points. That won't be the case this year, but any points the special teams or defense puts up on the board will just allow the Hokies to blow the game open that much more.
Virginia Tech Has Something to Prove
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Not to imply that the Broncos have nothing to prove, because obviously they do, but Virginia Tech is in the same boat. The Hokies have lost two straight neutral site openers, which have really affected their bowl status the last two seasons.
The Hokies have not had an offense this good since the start of the decade, potentially ever. The defense is an early concern, but Bud Foster will have that unit in shape as the season wares on. Foster will have them ready against Boise State, but don't expect a perfect game from the defense. The defense will play good, but they will make mistakes and likely will give up a couple of big plays.
However, the pressure is finally off the defense to play a perfect game for the first time since 2005. Virginia Tech will move the ball on offense, both on the ground and through the air. There have been points in the last two years where the defense has intercepted a pass and didn't take it back for six, and fans would be upset because they knew the offense would stall.
That should all be in the past now, and watching Foster coach a defense that doesn't have to play perfect will be interesting to watch. However, that doesn't mean Foster will go easy on the unit. He's one of the most fiery coaches in the nation, and expects positive results on every play.
The Hokies have three things they need to prove in this game. First, they will prove that they have one of the top offenses in the nation. Their running game will only add to their ability to throw the ball down field, so expect to see the offense rolling on all cylinders.
Second, the Hokies have to prove they can beat a legitimate contender on a neutral site. Yes, the Hokies have bowl wins, but their last two bowl wins were against Tennessee and Cincinnati. Neither team was ranked as high, or was as good as the Broncos are, so the Hokies need to prove that they can beat a legitimate team early in the season.
And last but not least, the Hokies need to prove to the nation that they're a national title contender and the ACC is on the rise. This game is about more than just Virginia Tech football. It's about the ACC as well. The ACC has a few out of conference games that could earn the conference respect along the way, but many feel this game against the Broncos is a must win for the conference.
The Hokies are the preseason favorite in the ACC, and have a top 10 ranking in the preseason polls. Polls begin to become meaningful after the first of the season, and it's up to the Hokies to prove they belong in the top 5.
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Everything discussed here are concerns and goals for the Hokies and Broncos. Both teams will be motivated, and it should be a great scene at FedEx. This game is drawing a lot of hype for good reason, and it should live up to the hype for the first three quarters.
The Hokies offense will be too much for the Broncos defense in the end. Virginia Tech's rushing attack will keep the Broncos' defense on the field for a long period of time, which should add to the Hokies ability to throw the ball late in the game.
The Hokies will pull away in the fourth quarter, and begin their run for a national championship. Expect some points to be scored, but nothing to outrageous.
Virginia Tech 34, Boise State 21