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Top 25 team preview: No. 25 Virginia Tech Hokies

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Logan Thomas hopes to rebound after throwing more picks and fewer touchdowns in 2012 than in '11.

Virginia Tech's 2013 schedule
DateOpponent
Aug. 31vs. Alabama (Atlanta)
Sept. 7vs. Western Carolina
Sept. 14at East Carolina
Sept. 21vs. Marshall
Sept. 26at Georgia Tech
Oct. 5vs. North Carolina
Oct. 12vs. Pittsburgh
Oct. 26vs. Duke
Nov. 2at Boston College
Nov. 9at Miami
Nov. 16vs. Maryland
Nov. 30at Virginia

The ACC title game is Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.

Top 25 Previews
1
Alabama
By Lars Anderson
 
2
Stanford
By Stewart Mandel
 
3
Texas A&M
By Stewart Mandel
 
4
Ohio State
By Stewart Mandel
 
5
Oregon
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
6
South Carolina
By Thayer Evans
 
7
Louisville
By Zac Ellis
 
8
Notre Dame
By Lars Anderson
 
9
Florida
By Andy Staples
 
10
Clemson
By Zac Ellis
 
11
Texas
By Stewart Mandel
 
12
Georgia
By Lars Anderson
 
13
Florida State
By Andy Staples
 
14
LSU
By Lars Anderson
 
15
Michigan State
By Ben Glicksman
 
16
TCU
By Dan Greene
 
17
Baylor
By Elizabeth McGarr McCue
 
18
Michigan
By Ted Keith
 
19
Oklahoma
By Richard Deitsch
 
20
Boise State
By Lars Anderson
 
21
UCLA
By R.J. Rico
 
22
Northwestern
By Gabriel Baumgaertner
 
23
Vanderbilt
By Zac Ellis
 
24
Northern Illinois
By Martin Rickman
 
25
Virginia Tech
By Zac Ellis
 

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.

For more college football preview content, check out SI's 2013 schedule guide, four teams that can beat Alabama package, preseason All-America Team, media roundtable and much more.

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.

Schedule analysis

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.

Key stat

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.

Breakout player

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.

X-factor

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.

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