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College Football Over/Under: Virginia Tech

flickr.com/Big Eds Photos

flickr.com/Big Ed's Photos

I think my brother put it best: if Tyrod Taylor can execute a pro-style offense at the college level this year (1 TD, 5 INT last season), 9.5 wins seems almost too low for the Hokies.

Last year, no team with 4+ losses was remotely competitive in their bowl game; none except the Virginia Tech Hokies that is, who beat the 2 loss Cincinnati Bearcats quite convincingly (20-7).  The Hokies, unlike pretty much the rest of the ACC, win with defense and special teams.  That’s a combination usually reserved for pro football, as college coaches–even defensive minded ones–tend to create offensive machines since the Division I-FBS environment lends itself to wide open offense that forces defenses into quick decisions to compensate for the speed disadvantage they have trying to stop spread offenses.

The SEC is a notable exception to this rule, as coaches there tend to recruit enough speed for both sides of the ball, but Virginia Tech has always been defense first, then special teams, and then offense.  And this particular season, I think the combination is bound to give them a competitive advantage not seen in past seasons.

Unlike a lot of SEC offense, Tech has taken a lot of spread offense principles over the years, and incorporated them into their offense.  This is one of the things that makes their match-up Saturday night with Nick Saban and Alabama so intriguing for an unbiased observer like myself: two teams that are very similar philosophically, one from the powder puff ACC, the other from the brutal SEC, and yet, it might be the ACC team that has the upper hand this year.  The competitive dynamic of the ACC does not force Virginia Tech to do what Alabama does to compete, but the focus of Frank Beamer and his staff, in terms of the big picture, was never about ACC championships.

I don’t know if Virginia Tech will beat Alabama, as a lot of that depends on how well prepared Alabama is in 2009.  Three years ago, Nick Saban was leading a professional football team who everyone thought was front runners for the AFC East title and consequent super bowl.  That team finished in last place, giving up 23 more points than they scored, and most importantly, won 1 of 7 games leading up to it’s bye week.  The 2006 Miami Dolphins are merely a cautionary tale for the 2009 Crimson Tide, as there were circumstances that contributed to the preseason ranking that Saban had no control over, but there appears to be similar expectations for Alabama this year.

I do know that I still like VT’s national championship chances, win or lose on Saturday.  This is mostly because I don’t believe Alabama will be a contender for the BCS title game: they do not seem to have the horses to beat Florida or even LSU this year, while the Hokies will have plenty of chances to get to 11-1 while defeating quality opponents along the way.  Key games (other than ‘Bama) include:

  • Sep. 19 vs. Nebraska (Blacksburg, VA)
  • Sep. 26 vs. Miami-Fl. (Blacksburg, VA)
  • Oct. 17 at. Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA)
  • Oct. 29 vs. North Carolina (Blacksburg, VA)

The Hokies always schedule well, and this year is no exception.  As it works out this year, most of their critical games will come at home this year, and there won’t be a Matt Ryan figure to ruin their season this time.  What it boils down to is protecting their home field, and finding a way to beat Georgia Tech on the road if they want to remain in the national championship discussion.

No test will be tougher than GT’s triple option offense for a team that prides itself on stopping the spread.  Georgia Tech happens to be the one other team in the conference who likes to go with defense first (although having John Shoop as North Carolina’s offensive coordinator more or less forces them to be a defensive squad), and I’m more than willing to predict that the winner of that game is going to be the eventual ACC Championship winner.  It’s a fair matchup for the Hokies, and that’s not something they plan on seeing very much of this year.

Anyway, I was asked to pick the over under on 9.5 wins, and with more than two potential pitfalls, it’s not an easy one to do so, but this is a talented team.  Thus, I’m implored to take the over on VT this year.  I expect a bare minimum of 10 wins, and this is a team that’s capable of a 12-0 regular season and a national championship apperance.  Does the schedule lend itself to this outcome?  Not really, but win both of the games played in Atlanta, and the majority of the Hokies’ dirty work will be done at home where they have been very good.  Unlike in prior years, the ACC Championship will likely not serve as a pitfall, but rather a resume builder for BCS Bowl status.  Even if they end up in the Orange Bowl again, they’ll be the likely winners.  I just don’t think they’ll stop there: the ultimate goal this year is a national championship.

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