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Sunday, August 25, 2013
Sat., vs. Alabama (in Atlanta), 5:30 p.m., ESPN
What a way to start. The Crimson Tide has won two straight BCS titles and three of the past four, a modern dynasty at its height. With QB A.J. McCarron, RB T.J. Yeldon and WR Amari Cooper, Alabama's offense might be further ahead than Nick Saban's defense at this point. A scary thought.
Sept. 7, vs. W. Carolina, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
The Hokies and Catamounts have never met on the gridiron before. This shouldn't be a close one. Western Carolina, an FCS school, went 1-10 last year and have lost 10 games in a row, the second-longest active streak in the FCS, behind only Rhode Island's 13.
Sept. 14, at East Carolina, Noon, Fox Sports 1
Virginia Tech was lucky to escape Greenville, N.C., by the skin of its teeth with a 17-10 win in 2011. This game figures to be higher scoring. Pirates QB Shane Carden (3,116 yards, 30 TDs) and WR Justin Hardy (88 catches, 1,185 yards, 11 TDs) lead an explosive offense that could be among the Conference USA's best.
Sept. 21, vs. Marshall
The nation's No. 1 passer last year resided in Hunting ton, W.Va. Rakeem Cato threw for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns, leading the nation with 350.1 passing yards per game. The C-USA Offensive Player of the Year led an offense that averaged 40.92 points a game. Problem is, the defense gave up 43.08 ppg.
Sept. 26, at Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
The Yellow Jackets somehow pulled out of an early-season swoon to come back and represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game (once Miami and UNC pulled out). Vad Lee has been tabbed to run Paul Johnson's option offense, a mobile quarterback GT thinks can throw it too. Coordinator Ted Roof is back to run an attacking defense.
Oct. 5, vs. North Carolina
The Heels ran the Hokies off the field in a 48-34 win last year. Fortunately for Tech, running back Gio Bernard is in the NFL. Unfortunately, QB Bryn Renner (3,356 yards, a school-record 28 TDs) is back and more comfortable running Larry Fedora's hurry-up offense in Year 2. If an underachieving defense can improve, the Tar Heels could contend for the division title.
Oct. 12, vs. Pittsburgh
The Panthers gave the Hokies a beating last September that foreshadowed Tech's downward arc. Pitt lost a star in the making at running back when Rushel Shell transferred. But the Panthers' defense, which ranked 17th nationally last year, could carry the team. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald (64 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) should be one of the ACC's best.
Oct. 26, vs. Duke
The Blue Devils snapped a 20-year bowl drought, but they couldn't quite shake their label as the Duke of old. The team lost five straight to finish the year and was out-gained in ACC play by 140.4 yards per game. Asking for back-to-back bowl appearances, which would be a first in school history, might be a stretch.
Nov. 2, at Boston College
New coach Steve Addazio is trying to re-energize a team that needs it. The Eagles beat only Maine and Maryland last year, although they took the Hokies to overtime in a loss. QB Chase Rettig (3,065 yards, 17 TDs) is back, working under his fifth offensive coordinator, but Addazio will need to build this team back up through recruiting.
Nov. 9, at Miami
The 'Canes are the preseason favorites to win the Coastal Division, and with eight starters back on offense - including QB Stephen Morris (21 TDs), RB Duke Johnson (171.7 all-purpose ypg) and a veteran offensive line - it's hard to argue. If a historically bad defense (486.42 ypg) can makes strides, Miami could finally make it to the ACC title game.
Nov. 16, vs. Maryland
An almost comical number of injuries to their quarterbacks sank the Terrapins last year. But Randy Edsall's team does have a decent defense (338.83 ypg, 21st nationally last year) and do-it-all receiver Stefon Diggs, who can turn a game in an instant. C.J. Brown, a dual threat quarterback coming off an injury, could make the Terps decent in their final run through the ACC.
Nov. 30, at Virginia
The Cavs have been doing work on the recruiting trail. Now it's a matter of putting those young studs (DE Eli Harold, RB Taquan Mizzell) into significant roles. David Watford is the starting QB, and Mike London has vowed not to rotate signal callers this year. UVa still has work to do if it wants to end a nine-game losing skid to the Hokies.
The Hokies revamped their offensive coaching staff after their worst season in 20 years, but it's going to take time for those changes to take root. Tech has quarterback Logan Thomas and a pretty good defense, but it faces major question marks at running back, receiver and on the offensive line. The new coaches will need to replenish the Hokies' ranks through recruiting. That doesn't do a whole lot for this year, though, which could be another struggle, especially in an increasingly competitive Coastal Division.
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