2009 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. Alabama

The Team

  • The Hokies need to respect the Crimson Tide, but not be intimidated by them. Alabama is a great team, but Virginia Tech can win this game.
  • Virginia Tech can't resign itself to defeat if things don't go its way early in the game. The Alabama-Clemson game was over after the first quarter.
  • The coaching staff can't freak out just because the Hokies can't get easy rushing yards against Alabama. The Crimson Tide want teams to abandon the run early and be afraid to run between the tackles against their incredibly talented front seven.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. Alabama Defense

  • Don't expect a lot of rushing yards between the tackles. If Virginia Tech's running backs can average 3.5 ypc, I'd consider it a huge victory.
  • We've discussed Alabama's front seven ad nauseum, but that's only because this is the best front seven we've ever faced or will face the rest of this season. Hokie fans are used to salivating when the opponent runs a 3-4 defense. Not so this time around.
  • Everyone points to Terrence Cody as the reason Alabama's front seven is so effective. But as big, powerful and physical as he is, it's Alabama's linebackers that make the difference. While teams are busy double-teaming Cody, Rolando McClain and Dont'a Hightower are able to use their speed and strength to make tackles for minimal or no gain.
  • A lot has been made of the loss of Darren Evans for the season. But I really don't think Evans would have made that much difference in this game. It would have been nice to have him for short-yardage situations, but he wasn't going to be a game breaker. Instead, the loss of Evans will force Virginia Tech to not rely on wearing down the defense by continually throwing Evans at the opponent's front seven. Instead, Bryan Stinespring will be forced to get creative against Alabama. Do I trust him to do this? Hell no. But I'm willing to be surprised.
  • With Evans out, the good news is Alabama doesn't know what we're going to do on offense.
  • The bad news is neither do we.
  • The X factor will be Tyrod Taylor's ability to scramble for rushing yards. Alabama will have a game plan for keeping Taylor in containment, but if he can still break free and pick up first downs to keep drives alive, the Hokies have a chance to put points on the board.
  • The Hokies have a lot of experience in their receiving corps, but no home run threats. The one deep threat we thought we had, Jarrett Boykin, was beaten out for the split end job by redshirt freshman Xavier Boyce. The Hokies do have solid possession options in flanker Danny Coale and tight ends Greg Boone and Andre Smith.
  • How much of the Wild Turkey formation do you think we'll see Saturday? I don't think we'll see it that often, if at all. Maybe two or three plays.
  • Don't underestimate how big a loss Evans is to our pass protection. He won the starting running back job last year by being the best pass blocker of the running backs.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. Alabama Offense

  • The Hokie defense should have a lot of practice against the Alabama offense because its style is very similar to ours.
  • Virginia Tech will try to get pressure on Greg McElroy, who begins his first year as Alabama's starter. The Crimson Tide are also breaking in new offensive linemen, including left tackle James Carpenter.
  • While I expect the Hokies to get pressure on McElroy, I'm not certain that pressure is going to turn into a lot of sacks. McElroy is excellent at checking down quickly and getting rid of the ball before he gets into trouble. At least that's what I saw in their spring game.
  • If the Hokies want to have a chance, they'll need a big game from Jason Worilds. However, Worilds can't have a big game unless the Hokies are able to stop the Alabama rushing game and force the Crimson Tide into obvious passing downs.
  • I am really impressed by Alabama running back Mark Ingram. He never goes down on the first hit and is always getting yards after contact.
  • Julio Jones is a freak of nature. Tech coaches compare him to Calvin Johnson. And we all know what happened the last time the Hokies faced him.
  • The knock on new starting LB Jake Johnson is he isn't very good in pass coverage. We had a lot of miscommunication between the free safety and rover in the middle of the field last year. We're breaking in a new field corner and our boundary corner didn't play that position last year. Uh-oh.
  • Virginia Tech needs Kam Chancellor to have a big game. He had his best game of 2008 when we needed it most in the Orange Bowl. He gave up a touchdown on the first drive, but was spectacular the rest of the way. We need Kam 2007 to show up Saturday in the Georgia Dome and deliver big hits and big plays. He needs to be the leader of the defense.
  • Javier Arenas isn't just a solid cornerback, he's a gifted playmaker on special teams. Minimizing Areans' effect on kick and punt returns will be a big key in winning the field position game.

Outcome

  • I just don't see the Hokies scoring enough points to win this game. The defense will keep us in it, but Alabama will keep us at arm's length the whole game.

Watch the Box Score For:

  • Turnovers
  • Virginia Tech Sacks
  • Tyrod Taylor Rushing Yards
  • Julio Jones Receiving Yards

Virginia Tech Players to Watch:

  • 5 - Tyrod Taylor, Jr., QB
  • 70 - Sergio Render, Sr., OG
  • 17 - Kam Chancellor, Sr., FS
  • 6 - Jason Worilds, Jr., DE

Alabama Players to Watch:

  • 8 - Julio Jones, So., WR
  • 77 - James Carpenter, Jr., OT
  • 62 - Terrence Cody, Sr., DT
  • 28 - Javier Arenas, Sr., CB

Final Score:

Alabama 20, Virginia Tech 13

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