Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Virginia Tech Hokies, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It seems like every year we go through this exercise. In 2008, it was understandable -- Nick Saban's team was coming off a 7-6 season when they clubbed Clemson 34-10 en route to the Tide's first undefeated regular season under the Process. In 2009, things were a little bit closer on the scoreboard, with Virginia Tech getting beaten 34-24 in the Georgia Dome. But it's easy to forget that the Tide outgained the Hokies 498-155 in that game. Alabama skipped big interconference openers for two season after that, but won two second-week games against Penn State by multiple scores. And then there was last year's 41-14 dismantling of Michigan.
Just like those games, there are reasons to think that this game could be close despite last year's 7-6 finish for the Hokies. Logan Thomas is a dynamic player at quarterback, even if he's never quite seemed to put all the pieces together for a sustained period of time. And Bud Foster is still running the defense in Blacksburg, so there's no real doubt that he's going to have a pretty good team with nine returning starters on defense. There's a reason Virginia Tech is considered one of the better teams in the ACC Coastal. (That's the one with Miami and the two Techs in it.)
But then there's the other side of this game. Logan Thomas still has never put the pieces together for an extended period of time. Virginia Tech has seen more than its fair share of injuries heading into the season opener. And of course, there's that team on the other side of the field.
"That team" might just be one of the best teams Nick Saban has ever fielded at Alabama. It's almost certainly one of the best teams in the country right now. And there's no one better at getting his team ready for these season-opening games than Nick Saban. Barring some unforeseen offseason improvement at Virginia Tech this year, the smart money says the Tide will be the best team on the field tonight.
That's not to say there's no hope for Virginia Tech. First games are notoriously tricky for even the best of teams, and Virginia Tech is still a more than competent ACC squad. But it looks like we're in for another one of those games that looked like it might be challenging a year or two ago, and now looks like it will be nothing more than a good launching pad for Bama's next run at the crystal football.
Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 14