|Virginia Tech's 2013 schedule|
The ACC title game is Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.
Can Alabama make a run at a third straight national title? Can Ohio State replicate last year's 12-0 campaign? Can Oregon maintain its standard of success under new leadership? With the college football season approaching, Sports Illustrated unveils its preseason Top 25.
The case for
The headliner on offense, senior quarterback Logan Thomas, returns to help the Hokies put a sorry 2012 campaign behind them. Though Thomas struggled last fall (18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and an eight‑plus-point drop in completion percentage), his dual‑threat production as a sophomore reflected his potential. To get back on track, Thomas has spent the offseason working with coordinator Scot Loeffler, one of three offensive coaches brought on by Frank Beamer to kick-start the attack. The rushing game, which was bland in 2012, should find new life with highly touted redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds, who joins J.C. Coleman (492 yards, 2 TDs) in the backfield.
The defense came alive late last season, holding opponents to an average of 15.7 points in the final three games, all victories. The entire line returns, including 6-foot-4, 253-pound shutdown end James Gayle (43 tackles, 16 sacks). In all, the unit brings back nine starters.
The case against
Virginia Tech's 7-6 record in 2012 was Beamer's worst in 20 years with the Hokies. The running game -- historically a strength -- was a non-factor, and there's no guarantee that the new coaches can retool an attack with so little experience on offense.
It doesn't get any tougher than the Hokies' opener: two-time defending national champion and preseason No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta. Virginia Tech must hit the road to play Miami on Nov. 9, but it avoids Clemson and Florida State in cross-divisional play, a boon for an ACC program hoping to bounce back.
80: The number of FBS teams ranked ahead of Virginia Tech in total and scoring offense in 2012. The Hokies finished 81st in the country with 376.7 yards per game and 25.1 points per game, the program's worst-ranked offense since 2008. Tech's new crop of coaches will look to reverse that trend.
RB Trey Edmunds: The redshirt freshman might be the spark needed to move the running game in the right direction. He boasts plenty of speed, including a 4.37 40 time, and he ran for a pair of touchdowns in the Hokies' final scrimmage of spring practice. Even if Coleman emerges as a more threatening back as a sophomore, it's hard to imagine Edmunds sitting on the sidelines very long, especially given his prolific prep career: He accounted for 2,596 yards and 33 touchdowns as a senior at Dan River (Va.) High.
Freshman to watch
CB Kendall Fuller: All-ACC corner Atone Exum is rehabbing a torn right ACL, which creates an opportunity for Fuller, Tech's top recruit in 2013. The 6-foot, 193-pounder is the fourth Fuller in Blacksburg: Kyle is a senior cornerback, while Vincent and Corey are in the NFL.
QB Logan Thomas: The Hokies will go as far as Thomas takes them in 2013. As a sophomore in 2011, Thomas completed 59.8 percent (234-of-391) of his passes; that number dropped to 51.3 percent (220-of-429) last season. The quarterback also threw six more interceptions and one fewer touchdown last season, and it's no coincidence that the team's finish mirrored Thomas's own struggles. New coordinator and quarterbacks coach Loeffler tutored six future NFL passers throughout his coaching tenure, including Tom Brady, so Thomas could redeem himself under Loeffler's watch.
Projected 2013 stats (By RotoWire.com)
QB Logan Thomas: 2,715 passing yards, 18 TDs; 430 rushing yards, 9 TDs
RB Trey Edmunds: 790 rushing yards, 7 TDs; 80 receiving yards, 0 TDs
WR Demitri Knowles: 675 receiving yards, 6 TDs; 1 kick return TD
Coach speak: Frank Beamer
SI: Your 7-6 record in 2012 was your worst in two decades. What went wrong?
FB: We had some unusual things happen to us. But when we were sitting at 4-6 and nobody was saying anything good about a team that's won 10 games for eight straight years, that team could have folded. It didn't. To me there are things to draw from that, life lessons.
SI: Logan Thomas experienced a drop in production. What problems did you see in his game?
FB: We were in too many third-and-10 situations. Those are hard. Logan really takes it upon himself to make plays. But he's a mature guy, and he'll learn from last year.
SI: Why the offensive coaching changes?
FB: I felt like we needed something different, a different feeling. We needed to be more consistent with how we run the football and take care of it.
SI: You open with Alabama. How do you prepare?
FB: By playing Alabama, summer workouts and preseason practices are better. Regardless of how the game turns out, I think your program is better. For me it's a tremendous opportunity.