Week 1 Viewing Menu

Here’s a handy list of games of importance for week one.  All times are CST.

Thursday, August 29th
North Carolina at South Carolina 5:00 p.m. ESPN (HD) / espn3 *9
Utah State at Utah 7:00 p.m. FS1 (HD)
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt 8:15 p.m. ESPN (HD)
USC at Hawaii 10:00 PM CBSSN (HD)
UT Martin at Chattanooga 6:30 p.m. CSS (cable)
Friday, August 30th
Florida Atlantic at Miami 7:00 p.m. ESPNU (HD) / espn3 *9
Texas Tech at SMU 7:00 p.m. ESPN (HD) / espn3 *9
Samford at Georgia State 6:00 p.m. espn3
Saturday, August 31st
Buffalo at Ohio State 11:00 a.m. ESPN2 (HD) / espn3 *9
Purdue at Cincinnati 11:00 a.m. ESPNU (HD)
Toledo at Florida 11:21 a.m. SEC Network / ESPN-GP / espn3
Rice at Texas A&M 12:00 p.m. ESPN (HD)
BYU at Virginia 2:30 p.m. ESPNU (HD)
Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State (Houston) 2:30 p.m. ABC (HD) / ESPN2 (HD) *7
Penn State vs. Syracuse 2:30 p.m. ABC (HD) / ESPN2 (HD) *7
Temple at Notre Dame 2:30 p.m. NBC (HD) / Video
Louisiana Lafayette at Arkansas 3:00 p.m. FS South / ESPN-GP / espn3
Nicholls State at Oregon 3:00 p.m. FS1 (HD)
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech 4:30 p.m. ESPN (HD)
Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville) 6:00 p.m. ESPN News / espn3?
Washington State at Auburn 6:00 p.m. ESPNU (HD)
Georgia at Clemson 7:00 p.m. ABC (HD)
LSU vs. TCU 8:00 p.m. ESPN (HD)
Boise State at Washington 9:00 p.m. FS1 (HD)
UAB at Troy 6:00 p.m. espn3
Sunday, September 1st
Ohio at Louisville 2:30 p.m. ESPN (HD)
Colorado vs. Colorado State (Denver) 5:00 p.m. CBSSN (HD)
Monday, September 2nd
Florida State at Pittsburgh 7:00 p.m. ESPN (HD)
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Alabama vs Va Tech – W2W4 Defense (and score prediction)

W2W4 On Defense and Special Teams Against the Hokies

If there’s been one common complaint about the blog, it’s been about the length.  Now, typically I’ve heard that length is supposed to be a good thing but I suppose where blogs are concerned, perhaps not.  So, just for you folks who can’t handle the size, this season I’m planning on breaking up the Offensive and Defensive Previews into two segments and I’ll just link them back to one another.  Let me know what you think as I’m open to changing back if that’s easier for you to read.

In the offensive preview, we talked about the multiple blitz packages that Virginia Tech will employ to try and wreak some havoc across Alabama’s reconstructed offensive line.  In our defensive preview, today we’ll look at perhaps the most boring, vanilla offense that we are likely to encounter all season.  I’m not exaggerating, either.  Let’s put it this way – did you think Auburn’s offense (#115 in total offense and #112 in scoring offense) was horrible last season?  Well, Va Tech was so bad last year that they actually hired the architect for the Auburn dumpster fire.  Welcome to Blacksburg, Scott Loeffler!

Alabama on Defense

The Virginia Tech Hokies have made the song “Enter Sandman” into their famous rallying cry and, honestly, it’s pretty cool to see.  But, we think they should cue up “Enter Bland-man” this season when the offense takes the field because we sincerely doubt you’ll see anything flashy from this group.  We picture it looking like Mike Shula’s offense on hydrocodone.

During his time at the college football powerhouse of Temple, Scott Loeffler employed a two back, I formation set predicated on running the football.  To his credit, the Owls (what is it with these tame bird mascots?) did drastically improve their running game but they simply couldn’t throw it in the ocean if they were drowning in it.

Speaking of not being able to throw it in the ocean, Hokie QB Logan Thomas was, at one time, actually listed on the periphery of Heisman Trophy candidates. Then last year happened.  At 6’6 and 257 lbs, Thomas is an imposing figure who can move pretty well as a runner.  In fact, last season Va Tech would run Thomas from the shotgun in short yardage situation.  Unfortunately for him, running seems to be what he’s best suited for as his passing game has become so erratic that they think Loeffler can actually help him!  Yikes!  Thomas completed a mere 51% of his passes last season and had nearly as many interceptions (16) as he did touchdowns (18).  It’s been said that Loeffler is tinkering with Thomas’ footwork, timing and throwing motion and we expect all of that work to get flushed down the toilet just as soon as the bullets start flying past his head on Saturday.  Tim Tebow overhauled his mechanics, too, but when he was under pressure he reverted back to his old ways.  With two freshmen tackles, Thomas will most certainly be under tremendous pressure so we look for his newly revised mechanics to get thrown out the window somewhere around the third play.

We think this game is really more about Alabama’s defense than it is about the Hokies’ offense.  Saturday the front seven of Alabama should look like a wrecking ball hitting a paper machete wall and it’s hard for us to imagine any way for the Hokies to challenge it.  Why?  Here are some things you need to know:

  • Va Tech is starting two freshmen tackles and a new center.  Yikes.
  • In their 8/17 scrimmage, Thomas was 5 for 15 for 72 yards and 3 picks.  They had negative 3 yards rushing.
  • Somehow their starting RB (JC Coleman) was able to sprain both of his ankles on the same play and is questionable for Saturday’s game.
  • 73% of Virginia Tech’s targeted receivers from last year are gone.

With all of that in mind, here are the things we’ll be looking for:

  • Keep an eye on Landon Collins and Vinnie Sunseri in the secondary as those are two guys who are going to be vital to the team’s success in the back half this season.  Will Vinnie get beaten deep again in-game one?  Will Landon Collins be the force he’s supposed to be in coverage and at the line of scrimmage?  We suspect Collins will have a big game as he’s come a long way in the last year.
  • The time is now for Jeoffrey Pagan to step forward and claim his spot on the d-line.  He’s been much talked about but it’s now time to put up or shut up for this big man.
  • Watch Ivory completely control the middle of the line.  There are no concerns here.
  • We can’t wait to see what the new and improved “Rabbits” package looks like.  Hubbard and Devall on the outside with Stinson and Pagan on the inside?  There are a ton of athletic options here and using this package Saturday will be good practice for Johnny Football.
  • How will Jarrick Williams do in place of Geno Smith.  He likely will not be challenged by Va Tech but if I were the OC, I’d go after Williams and Sunseri early and often.
  • A’Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner and Johnathan Allen will all likely play so Saturday will be like opening three bit Christmas presents – I wonder what’s inside???
  • How will Trey DePriest play after being suspended for a week?  Ragland is pushing him hard so DePriest is really going to have to play his best to keep his spot.
  • Will John Fulton finally step forward and lock down the starting corner position as a senior?

And, here are a few predictions for you.  If you are a Hokie fan, you might want to avert your eyes.  Not to these predictions but, rather, on Saturday….

  • Tech will have less than 75 yards rushing.  We actually think they’ll have less than 50 yards rushing but, wow, that would be going out on a limb!
  • The safeties will combine for three interceptions.  Thomas often sails the ball and Ha Ha, Sunseri and Collins can all catch it extremely well.
  • Sacks.  Lots of ‘em.  We’ll go with five or more.  Hubbard and Devall will combine for three of them.
  • Without receiving help from the Bama offense, the Tech offense will get in the red zone (inside the 25) a grand total of two times.  One will likely be in the final 5 or 6 minutes when the game is out of reach.
  • Field goals.  If Tech does reach the red zone, they’ll have to settle for field goals.
  • If Reuben Foster plays, he will rock somebody’s world.  Gauranteed!
  • We suspect that there will be very few designed runs for Logan Thomas.  Like Michigan did last year with Denard Robinson, I think Beamer will be concerned about protecting Thomas for the rest of the season.
  • Prior to the snap, Va Tech will use lots and lots of motion in an effort to gain a numerical advantage to one side of the formation or the other.  This along with the new offensive line should result in a few illegal formations and false starts so we’ll set the number at four of these occurring.

Special Teams

Here are a couple of things to keep an eye on when Bama is on special teams.  First, Georgia blocked a field goal attempt in the championship game last season.  Cyrus Jones blocked a field goal a couple of weeks ago in the scrimmage.  With Cade Foster being sooooo slow to the ball, look for Beamer to create one of his famous blocked kicks.  They only blocked one last year so they are kinda due here.

We like Foster’s leg for kickoffs but we think Griffith is more accurate and certainly gets the ball up faster.  Saturday is audition #1 for Foster and, if he struggles, Griffith will get a shot.

Score Prediction

If you read the Offensive W2W4 and the Defensive W2W4 then you should be expecting a big score here, right?  Saban has prepared for this defense before in 2009 and the prepared for the Hokie offense last November when they schemed for the Auburn “attack”.  We don’t expect Va Tech to score much at all (without a tremendous amount of help from Bama’s offense and special teams) so that will keep things nice and relaxed on Saturday.  However, we do think the Bama offense will struggle early and will need to hit on a few big plays to tilt the scales towards a blowout.  In the end, the Tide’s defense will be too much and Alabama’s passing game prevails…

Alabama 34   Va Tech 3

W2W4 Offense (click here)

Alabama vs Va Tech – W2W4 on Offense

Alabama vs Virginia Tech Offense Preview

Ahh, yes, thank God it’s football season once again!!!!  This Saturday is the opening weekend of the 2013 college football season and that means it’s time to bust out your finest tailgating hardware and find your favorite lucky beer koozies!  I’m not the only one who has one, right?  Well, this weekend, we are suggesting that you do some deep pantry diving to find that big ole Turkey fryer back there behind the recycled peanut oil.  Why??  Because Turkey (form of, a Hokie)…it’s what’s for dinner!

The fine folks at Chic-Fil-A were kind enough to invite Alabama back to the Georgia Dome for another Kickoff Classic and, once again, Alabama’s main course will consist of dining on Virgina Tech’s famed Hokie Bird.  Here at the Lighthouse, we want to cast a light on everything and that includes “what the heck is a Hokie?”  Apparently, back when Tech was a military college, the cadet athletes used to “gobble” their food in a great big hurry so when Va Tech went looking for a mascot the whole gobble thing came up – this resulted in the Hokie Bird!  Va Tech fans probably think it’s a great story and a great mascot but the whole thing seems kind of hokey to me…

I know, I know – you didn’t come here to this site to read a bunch of hokie jokes and fowl language.  I imagine you guys get plenty of that kind of stuff from Duck Dynasty, right?  Ok, so we aren’t quite at mid-season form just yet.  And, honestly we admit that we are still feeling the sting of shame from predicting the Notre Dame defense would be a stiff challenge in the BCS Championship game.  Seriously.  What were we thinking??????  Well, at least last year the Lighthouse nailed the Michigan game (and the A&M game but who’s counting?) to start the 2012 season so maybe Virginia Tech is just the Thanksgiving we need to get us off to another fine season.  So, get your turkeys ready – it’s time for the Lighthouse to begin the master basting for the 2013 season!

Alabama on Offense

All of Bud Foster’s Hokie defenses are hell-bent on one thing – stopping the run.  Tech loves to stack (and oftentimes blitz) 8 men…9 men…and everyone including the damn Hokie bird across the line of scrimmage in an effort to shut down the running game.  And, while their LBs and defensive line groups are both woefully undersized, Foster uses slants, stunts and shifts to get his smallish lineman into the gaps of the offensive line.  As if that’s not enough havoc, Foster will then send his linebackers and corners on kamikaze missions that are designed to accent the slants and stunts of his front line.  The Hokies hit the edges hard in an effort to funnel the running game back to the inside and they were extremely successful in doing so against FSU last year.

Also, in watching the Florida State tape it was obvious that Va Tech likes to blitz well over 50% of the time.  Down doesn’t matter.  Distance doesn’t matter.  Time doesn’t matter.  While holding onto a one point lead with a minute to go in the game, instead of sitting in a prevent defense, Foster blitzed every single play.  Every.  Single.  Play.  Virginia Tech eventually lost when the Seminoles picked up the blitz and hit a speedy WR on a crossing route – he went into the end zone untouched from about 40 yards out.  You live by the sword, you die by the sword…

Anyway, there are obviously going to be two main outcomes to these all out blitz tactics and, as a friend of mine says, each blitz should guarantee that one of the two bands will be playing their fight song.  You will likely hear the Va Tech fight song (we think it must be Adam Sandler’s “Turkey Song”) a few times because their attacking, ultra-aggressive style of defense should result in several negative yardage plays – sacks, tackles for loss and probably a holding call or two.  But, when the Bama line is able to pick up the blitz, the Million Dollar band leader better have the “Yea Alabama” placard handy because if AJ gets the ball to Bell, White or Cooper then it should result in a quick six.

With Tech stacking the line of scrimmage and flying downhill to stop the run, Bama’s play action passing game should put the Hokies in a pressure cooker numerous times throughout the game.  Both of Tech’s safeties are former corners so they will likely not be completely over matched by Bama’s slot receivers as we are accustomed to seeing.  However, in their nickel looks the Hokies will be employing two true freshmen in Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson so look for their two names on the backs of the jerseys trailing Bama receivers into the end zone.  Nussmeier loves to call for double moves so look for a couple of the Hokies to be served up with some un-dressing by Bama receivers.  Also, swing passes and screens to the backs should prove to be wildly successful against the blitz.

As for the Bama running game, we think it will falter early but will be much more effective later after the Tide establishes the passing game.  Tech’s front four weighs 253, 312, 295 and 252 and their linebackers weigh in at 225, 232 and 211.  Both groups are woefully thin (in numbers and in size).  Look for the majority of Bama’s rushing yardage to come in the second half after the Hokies’ front seven has been slow roasted for the first two quarters.  Also, the Hokies hit the flanks really hard so look for most of the Tide’s rushing yards to come between the tackles.

Predictions

  • Blitz packages should leave a their corners stranded in man-to-man coverage.  Look for “rub” routes where Bama receivers will essentially pick the Hokie defenders leaving a few wide open receivers.  We predict at least two plays where you giggle and wonder where the defender was on that play.
  • You will get to know the name of Tech defensive end James Gayle as he will likely spend quite a bit of time harassing Bama backs in the backfield.  He’s very fast, very seasoned and is by far their best defensive player.  We think he gets at least a sack and a half and 2 TFL’s.  His matchup against Austin Shepherd is the key one of the game in our opinion.
  • AJ will be sacked a minimum of 3 times.  Why?  Because Bama has a rebuilt line that is working together for the first time.  Did we mention the blitz?  Va Tech will be bringing some pretty complex blitz packages for this new group to figure out.
  • Bama will come out flat as the Va Tech defense is a veteran group who improved by leaps and bounds over the latter part of last season.  It will take a few series to adjust to the pressure packages of the Hokies.  It won’t be 21-0 like it was against Michigan at the end of the first quarter.
  • Derrick Henry will be Alabama’s second leading rusher and he’s going to blow your mind.  He’s nearly as big as the two Va Tech ends and he’s bigger than all three of their linebackers.  He can also catch the ball so we think he may get out into the open field and do some serious damage to a little defensive back.
  • TJ Yeldon will be the second leading receiver (in catches) on the day.  With Foster committing his backers to stop the run, Yeldon should easily be able to slip out for a few passes.
  • AJ will toss at least two touchdowns and will complete four passes for over 20 yards.
  • OJ Howard will make a critical catch on a third down conversion.
  • The right tackle will give up at least two sacks.
  • Alabama’s offense should gain around 400 yards total with over 50% of it coming via the air.
  • Va Tech will double Amari Cooper as much as they can and that will open opportunities for White, Bell and Norwood.
  • You will see at least one double move result in a big, big play.
  • When Va Tech blitzes, their corners will sometimes play way off the receivers.  Look for quite a few quick hitch routes and WR screens to the outside to take advantage of this.
  • FSU had several opportunities to hit their slot receivers against the blitz but they never connected.  I can’t stop thinking about Chris Black and Christion Jones being isolated one on one against a freshman.  Look for them to catch a quick hitting slant route or two against a blitz.
  • FSU’s offense really struggled against the Hokies until they began running between the tackles and moving to a hurry up offense.  Alabama’s offense has been practicing the hurry up O all summer so I think you will see a little of this somewhere (likely early) in the game.
  • Alabama will “max protect” using tight ends and backs much more than usual.

Conclusion

We expect a slow start to the game while Alabama’s offensive line begins to create some traction against its smaller Virginia Tech opponents.  Their aggressive, attacking style of defense will likely create several negative plays for Alabama but it should also open up some huge opportunities down the field.  Va Tech will be completely overmatched if they just sit back and play a standard defense so they will have to blitz all night long.  Alabama will begin to get their groove on in the second half and will turn a relatively close game into a race to the Atlanta bars to watch the last two quarters of the Georgia-Clemson game.

Click Here for the Defensive W2W4 and Score Prediction