No. 7 Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0) vs. No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (0-0)
Georgia Dome Atlanta, G.A., Saturday, September 5th 8:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Alabama -7
The Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff will once again kick off opening weekend premiering two of the nations best squaring off primetime in a battle between the SEC and ACC. This will be the 2nd year that the Chick-Fil-A College Kickoff will highlight two of the best college football teams from rival conferences.
Last year, Alabama dismantled what turned out to be an over rated No. 9 Clemson team 34-10. The Crimson Tide will once again represent the SEC and take on the defending ACC Champions in the Virginia Tech Hokies. Both teams share eerie familiarities considered both had breakout seasons last year well ahead of schedule.
Despite having tons of talent, the Crimson Tide were expected to be nearly 2 years away from contending in the national spotlight heading into last season. However, the Tide shocked the country by taking the SEC by storm in route to an undefeated season. If not for a loss in the SEC Championship to Florida, the Crimson Tide would have been in the BCS National Championship Game.
On the other side of the field, Virginia Tech has a very similar story. The Hokies were expected to be a team that would need a year or two of rebuilding before contending in the ACC, but rather took down the conference in course to a 10 win season.
Considering both teams excelled prematurely in 2008, one might imagine that both fans bases expectations are through the roof. Rightfully so there is National Championship talk coming from both campuses, but both teams will have to get past a huge test when they square off with each other this Saturday night in what should be the best game of the weekend.
Virginia Tech’s potential provides a lot of excitement for Hokies fans. Entering the season they have a flashy exciting young quarterback in Tyrod Taylor. Add to the mixture, the Hokies sport one of the best defenses in all of college football and you can see why there is legitimate belief the Hokies could be in store for a big season.
Taylor is a quick quarterback who has very dangerous legs that racked up over 700 yards while throwing for over 1,000 in 2008. Those numbers may not be as impressive, but consider he shared a lot of time with former quarterback Sean Glennon. Taylor will be a lethal threat on the ground, but if he can make defenses respect his arm it will provide tons of success for the offense.
Tailback Darren Evans racked up 1,265 yards last season breaking school records as a freshman and was expected to have another big year. However recently in preseason practice, Evans tore his ACL and will now miss the entire season. The injury gives a huge blow to the Hokies offense considering how much attention they were putting on the rushing attack. In lieu of Evan injury, true freshman Ryan Williams will likely get the nod in the backfield and it will be interesting to see how quickly he can adapt to the college level. One thing that is for sure is if the Hokies can not move the ball on the ground, then those lofty expectations may take a back seat ride until 2010.
The Crimson Tide offense was led by some very respectable veterans last year which may have led to their early success. QB John Parker Wilson was under center and running back Glen Coffee found plenty of comfort moving the ball on the ground behind the big Alabama offensive line. However, both players are now gone and the offense will resort to some younger yet proven talents. Greg McIlroy takes over behind center, but what can we expect?
Well the Crimson Tide have never aired the ball out very much since they really put emphasis on ball control. However, having one of the best young wide receivers in college football should change that thinking slightly. Julio Jones had a huge season racking up 924 yards in his freshman season and may be the best sophomore in the country. Jones will definitely be the main target, and expect to see him get more attention as the year goes along.
The running game will be the biggest area of concern. Mark Ingram will be the man that takes over the carries. He was able to establish over 700 rushing yards last season. He will now take over the primary role and will have to be much more effective per carry with a younger offensive line.
Bookmakers opened the betting line favoring the Alabama Crimson Tide by a single touchdown at 7 points even.
In respect to both defenses, the over/under total is held at just at 38 points. Early action also shows the majority of the public is leaning towards the under total for Saturday’s match-up.
We have yet to mention either team’s potent defenses, but that is because the offenses will likely tell the story. The reason being is because both teams defenses are very good and will be the big strengths for each throughout the season.
Alabama had the 3rd best defense in America last season holding teams to just 263 yards per game. The Crimson Tide will return 9 starters on the defensive side of the ball and their dominance should continue in 2009.
Virginia Tech recorded the 7th best defense in America in 2008 holding teams to 279 yards per game. The Hokies lost a few starters, but have plenty of experience ready to step onto the field. The Hokies DB’s may actually be the best secondary in the country before the year is over with.
With both these impressive defenses set to square off, you can see why the offenses will be the difference. The offense that can establish some type of success will likely be the victor when these two powerhouses collide this Saturday.
Jay’s Pick: Virginia Tech +7.
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