GAME NOTES: The two-time defending national champions take aim at their third
title in as many seasons, when the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide open up the
2013 campaign in the Georgia Dome, taking on the Virginia Tech Hokies in the
Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic.
Frank Beamer's Hokies had an atypical season in 2012, as the school's string
of double-digit win totals came to an end at eight years. Last season,
Virginia Tech clawed its way to a mere 7-6 record, a mark that included an
unflattering 4-4 record in the ACC.
While Tech found itself in unfamiliar surroundings, Nick Saban and the rest of
the Crimson Tide finished off their campaign in the exact way they had the
year prior and three of the last four years, with a national championship.
With a dominant performance against Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game
last season, Alabama claimed its 15th national title.
Still nothing is given and Saban has the utmost respect for Beamer and the
"I think we are playing a very good team. A team that has a very good
tradition, a lot of 10-win seasons. They have a great coach, the No. 1 winning
coach actively in college football. They know how to win, and they're a team
that always plays really hard, lots of toughness, lots of effort, really sort
of old-fashioned when it comes to principles and values of competitive
character that they play with."
This marks the 13th meeting between these two teams all-time. Alabama won the
first 10 meetings, with Tech ending the streak in the 1998 Music City Bowl
(38-7). These two teams last met in the 2009 version of this game, a 34-24
The 2012 version of the Crimson Tide offense was a well-oiled machine, putting
up big numbers, while also scoring at an impressive rate.
A lot of the team's offensive success can be attributed to a devastating
offensive line and a savvy veteran QB in A.J. McCarron. The senior signal-
caller is well on his way to becoming the most decorated quarterback in school
history. He led the nation last season with a 173.08 passer efficiency rating,
completing 67.2 percent of his throws for 2,933 yards with a school-record 30
touchdowns, with a mere three interceptions.
He will benefit by the return of budding star Amani Cooper, who was named a
Freshman All-American, after grabbing 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11
touchdowns last season. Kevin Norwood (29 rec, 461 yards, four TDs) and
Christon Jones (27 rec, 368 yards, four TDs) round out a talented and
experienced receiving corps.
The backfield loses star Eddie Lacy, but like in years past, there is always
someone ready to take over. This year that is likely to be T.J. Yeldon, who
proved to be a dynamic weapon in his freshman season, rushing for 1,108 yards
(6.3 ypc) and 12 touchdowns.
The front line loses standouts Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones,
but Cyrus Kouandjio and Anthony Steen are expected to follow in their All-
Alabama ranked first in the FBS in scoring defense (10.9 ppg) and total
defense (250.0 ypg) in 2012. However, the Tide lost a few key pieces in the
offseason, including Dee Milliner, Nico Johnson, and Jesse Williams, but there
remains plenty of talent in Tuscaloosa.
After earning consensus First Team All-America honors in 2012, C.J. Mosley
(107 tackles, eight TFL, four sacks, two interceptions) is a front-runner for
the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. The Tide seem to never have a
lack of playmakers at linebacker, and this season is no different, with Trey
Depriest (59 tackles), Adrian Hubbard (11 TFL, seven sacks, three FF) and
Xzavier Dickson (33 tackles, 3.5 sacks) all returning.
In the secondary, Deion Belue (two picks, nine passes defended) will take over
as the top corner in the absence of Milliner. Safety HaHa Clinton-Dix has
shown game-changing ability with five interceptions a year ago.
The good news for Virginia Tech is that quarterback Logan Thomas returns. A
second-team All-ACC selection in 2011, the 6-6, 254-pound Thomas was supposed
to have a breakout season in 2012. That didn't happen, as he completed a mere
51.3 percent of his passes, for 2,976 yards, with 18 touchdowns against 16
interceptions. Thomas was also the team's top rushing threat, amassing 524
yards and nine TDs on the ground.
Depth in the backfield has taken a hit with key injuries to J.C. Coleman (492
yards, two TDs) and Tony Gregory (299 yards, one TD). Coleman is currently
sidelined with ankle injuries but he will return to the field. The news isn't
so optimistic for Gregory, who tore his left ACL, effectively ending his
career at Virginia Tech. The lack of depth however, could help showcase
redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds (6-1, 215) this season.
An area of great concern for Logan is the losses in the receiving corps. Gone
are playmakers Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts, leaving
sophomore Demetri Knowles (19 receptions, 240 yards, one TD) as the top
The strength of Virginia Tech in 2013 will be defense. The Hokies played well
down the stretch in 2012 and with nine starters returning to the mix, the hope
is that it will carry over into 2013.
Tech will rely on getting pressure up front from senior ends James Gayle (43
tackles, 5.0 sacks, 27 QBH) and J.R. Collins (31 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 20 QBH).
All-ACC First-Team selection Jack Tyler is a budding superstar at linebacker
after leading the team in tackles (119) and TFL (10.5) in 2012. The unit took
a hit when recently with a season-ending shoulder injury suffered by sophomore
LB Ronny Vandyke, but the squad will get a healthy Tariq Edwards back after an
The secondary will eventually return all four starters in junior safeties
Kyshoen Jarrett (83 tackles, 4.5 TFL) and Detrick Bonner (60 tackles, 10 PBU,
one INT) and senior cornerbacks Kyle Fuller (52 tackles, two INTs) and Antone
Exum (48 tackles, 16 PBU, five INTs). Exum earned Second-Team All-ACC honors
in 2012, but an ACL tear in a pickup basketball game in January has pushed his
expected return to the field to October.
The extremely large task at hand is not lost on Beamer heading into this game.
"They are the best team in the country the last few years, the best team by a
wide margin in preseason voting this year and it's certainly justified," said
Beamer. "After that, let's see where we are at and go play. It's not often you
get to play the best team in the country, so there's some challenges in that
The Crimson Tide are poised to make yet another run at a national crown.
Despite what should be a strong defense this season, Tech lacks the offensive
personnel to pull off an upset here.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 10