Virginia Tech kicks off its 2013 season against Alabama in Atlanta on Aug. 31. Most years this would be the kind of matchup of perennial powers to have just about everyone buzzing.
But with the Hokies coming off a 7-6 season that very nearly saw them miss a bowl game for the first time since 1992, a tangle with the two-time defending BCS champs has potential to be a blowout in many observers’ eyes. Virginia Tech has has traditionally struggled in these type of early season non-conference games, but inside the locker room the Hokies aren’t feeling much pressure, and strictly looking at the game as an opportunity.
“As a program, we’ve been known for not doing so well in those opening games against those big teams,” VT senior linebacker Jack Tyler said at ACC media days. “I think that would knock that whole persona out of the way.”
Virginia Tech’s fortunes can more or less be tied to the play of senior quarterback Logan Thomas. Entering 2012 some thought the Lynchburg, Va., product was a potential first-round NFL Draft pick, but his passing yardage (2,976), touchdowns (18) and completion percentage (51.3) fell from his sophomore year while his interceptions (16) and sacks (25) dramatically increased as a junior.
Thomas views it as a way to find out right away what kind of quarterback he’s become in the offseason, and by extension what kind of team the Hokies will be.
“Starting the season with Bama is always going to be a fun one,” he said. “They’ve been the best team in the country for back-to-back years. It’s the barometer now. That’s the level everybody wants to be at. ACC vs. SEC. It’s a good test, and if we can pull one out, it’ll show the ACC is still a strong conference.”
The Hokies think they know what kind of team they are and it’s closer to the perennial double-digit win program it has been most of the past decade than the group that struggled so often in 2012.
“We want to bring that first national championship to Virginia Tech,” Tyler said. “Beating Alabama would put us in great position. I didn’t come to Virginia Tech to play (against) Division I-AA. Those are the games that excite us. They’re good for the program, but they’re good for us.”
Shane Mettlen is a veteran sports writer whose work has appeared on ESPN.com, AOL Sports and in several major newspapers. He currently also contributes to Washingtonian and Cavalier Corner magazines. Follow him on Twitter: @ShaneMettlen