Game of the Week: No. 5 Alabama battles No. 7 Virginia Tech
It's back to the beginning for Alabama.
Last season, on this very stage,
The season ended with disappointing losses in the SEC title game and Sugar Bowl, but the surprising run set the bar extremely high. Now, the Crimson Tide will try to build off that 12-2 season as they open against No. 7 Virginia Tech, a team with plenty to prove for itself and its conference. The Hokies, who went 10-4 in 2008, join Texas and USC as the three teams to win at least 10 games in each of the past five seasons. Now, they're under pressure to back up the highest preseason ranking in program history.
The junior has always been able to make things happen with his feet. A year ago he ran for 738 yards and seven touchdowns and he has posted three career 100-yard rushing games, but he's struggled to match the same game-breaking ability with his arm, completing just 55.7 percent of his passes and posting a paltry 7-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Taylor's revamped his throwing motion to remove a hitch he's had since high school, but the real key remains whether he's confident enough to throw instead of taking off and relying on his athletic ability (like another dual-threat Virginia Tech QB used to do).
With the Hokies' leading returning rusher,
Of course, to be productive, McElroy needs his o-line to offer protection. After the Sugar Bowl, 'Bama fans know all too well what playing without left tackle
Defensively, the Tide will likely be without senior right end
The past three years, the conference is 33-46 in nonconference play against fellow BCS teams. Last season, the Hokies' Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati gave the ACC's its first BCS bowl win since 1999. Since the BCS began, the ACC has never produced an at-large invite to one of the bowls.
But the ACC has reason to be optimistic. Last season its teams were 6-4 against the SEC in the regular season, including wins over Ole Miss and Georgia, and it sent a record 10 teams to bowls. This year, 10 of its 12 teams return their starting quarterbacks and four are in the AP preseason Top 25, the most in four years.
Still, the ACC remains
"It's hard to prepare for a guy like that. The option stuff or the read-play, you try to get just two people on the quarterback on your read play every time and make sure you got two guys responsible for him. It is a good idea to have a guy spying him, but if there's a passing situation with him in the game you probably want as many defensive backs and linebacker types out there to chase him because he's hard to sack, hard to get a handle on unless you just get eight coming after him and get him before he gets started.
"A guy like that, you either have to get him before he gets started or make sure you have the kind of players on the field that when he does start scrambling can get him down in the open-field and frustrate him a little bit. He's not necessarily the kind of guy that's going to beat you with his arm but he will beat you with his feet."
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