A lot's been made of Boise State beginning the season in the top 5. They've gone undefeated twice in the past four seasons and if they do it again, well let's just say it would be very hard to keep them out of the championship. Their biggest obstacle? The Virginia Tech Hokies, first game of the season, Labor Day night, ESPN in front of a national audience. Win and they'll have Oregon State and the WAC standing in their way of a trip to Glendale for the title. Lose, and their title hopes are dead in the water. Period.
Virginia Tech has its own national title aspirations. A win over a top five opponent, even if it's a team from a non-AQ conference like Boise State, would be a huge boost to those hopes. The road to a title is a bit more difficult for Virginia Tech, who has to deal with not only the Broncos, but a trio of divisional opponents in Georgia Tech, North Carolina and finally Miami, all of whom have goals of an ACC title or better.
Following this game, we'll know a lot more about both teams, particularly whether Boise State, who returns all but three starters on offense and defense combined, are ready to make another run at the national title as everybody's favorite underdog (or for some that fly on the wall that seems to hang around long after you thought it would drop). Are they ready to deal with the pressure that comes with being a preseason favorite for the title?
What does Boise State need to do to win?
It's simple: execute. The Virginia Tech defense may have a few more question marks than we're used to, but never underestimate a Hokies defense. Playing on a national stage doesn't seem to intimidate the Broncos too much. They have, in fact, beaten Oklahoma in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl following the '06 season, beat Oregon on opening night last season in the primetime headliner and took down fellow non-AQ TCU in last season's Fiesta Bowl. They were ranked 14th at the start of last season, but were still generally considered an outside shot at the championship. How will they handle the pressure of starting the season so highly ranked and in serious conversation for the whole enchilada?
The Broncos need to rise above the hype, the billing and the millions of eyes that will be fixated on them and just execute. Play the game they're used to playing. Continue that mix of run and pass that earned them an undefeated season last year. Don't let expectations force you to go for the homerun on every down and just focus on moving the ball. If they do that, they should be fine.
The defense was ranked 14th in both total and scoring defense in 2009. All but one player (CB Kyle Wilson) returns to the starting unit, meaning this will be an experienced defense taking the field in Landover, Maryland. The pass rush needs to get pressure on Tyrod Taylor, who is a threat on the ground and through the air. If they can disrupt him in and out of the pocket, they'll be in good shape. There are five linebackers who could start, but they'll all have to step up to slow down Ryan Williams in the running game.
What does Virginia Tech need to do to win?
The Broncos will set their sights on stopping Ryan Williams and Darren Evans on the ground, making quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who can also run with the ball, beat them through the air. Getting the running game going early will be one of the focuses of the Hokies offense (hell, if you have two 1,000 yard rushers you might as well use them, right?), but getting the passing game going in the short to mid-range is another key. If Virginia Tech can move the ball through the air, it'll take a lot of pressure off of the running game. It'll also give them another option on third downs so the defense isn't focuses solely on Williams and Evans.
Defensively, the key is getting to Kellen Moore. Jeremy Avery and Doug Martin will give the Broncos an excellent running game, but through the air is where Boise State gets it done. The secondary needs to find a way to disrupt the efficient and prolific Moore, whose 39-3 touchdown-interception ratio last year was off the charts. Moore is a pretty unflappable quarterback, but putting him off his game should be a goal of the Tech D.
Boise State steps up in big games. They've defeated Oregon in two consecutive seasons and have won two Fiesta Bowls in the past four seasons. They may have a relatively soft conference schedule with an occasional challenge here and there, but they take care of business just about every year to put them in position to be a part of the BCS discussion each year in recent seasons. With such an experienced team, they'll step up again with a balanced offense and talented defense giving them the win against Virginia Tech. - Danny Hobrock
Danny is a sports journalist primarily covering college football and professional baseball. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. Danny is the former editor of a political and current events website and the editor of our college football content.
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