Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015: VT Tries to Drop a Deuce on Ohio State

UPDATE: "Braxton Miller has clearly found a new home at wide receiver, and No. 1 Ohio State has found another dangerous weapon. Miller scored two touchdowns -- one on a 54-yard catch-and-run where he had to tiptoe down the sideline, the other on an electrifying 53-yard run -- and the star-studded Buckeyes began their title defense with a 42-24 victory over Virginia Tech on Monday night. The Buckeyes avenged a 35-21 home loss to Virginia Tech last season and earned their 14th straight win overall. The Hokies, meanwhile, lost more than the game, with quarterback Michael Brewer shelved by a broken left collarbone that stalled any hope of a comeback."
CBS Sports:
The Associated Press released its preseason Top 25 on Sunday, and the question wasn't if Ohio State would be ranked No. 1; the question was how many first-place votes the defending national champion would receive.

In the end, the answer was: all of them. Urban Meyer's team became the first-ever unanimous preseason AP No. 1, with all 61 voters placing the Buckeyes first on their ballots. In 66 years of the AP's preseason balloting dating back to 1950, no team had ever received more than 97 percent of the first-place votes.

TCU, Alabama, Baylor and Michigan State rounded out the top five. Those rankings mark the highest-ever preseason ranking for the Horned Frogs and Bears and the highest for the Spartans since 1967.

Washington Post:
The game meets all of the criteria. The defending national champions are “by far” the country’s best team, Beamer said. There has been an eight-month buildup to the season opener, and it will be nationally televised on Labor Day, the only college football game that night. That Virginia Tech dealt Ohio State its lone loss last year only adds to the intrigue.

“Clemson, Texas, Alabama, LSU, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Miami, Florida State,” Beamer said. “But the one thing that we’ve never had is beating a number one team in the country.” Virginia Tech is 0-8 against top-ranked teams.

You might think there is no way no-how that Ohio State can resume the continued scoring pace from the back half of last season, which the Buckeyes put up a 59, a 55, a 49 and four 42s in eight games.

You might think again. The master schemer Urban Meyer has had the entire offseason to concoct ways to deploy his former three-headed quarterback composite of Candale Jones, J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller.

They were reduced to two when Miller, who started before the others at QB, transitioned to wide receiver. By the way, reports indicate he has adjusted with ease.

Meyer has kept the world -- and, specifically, Virginia Tech -- in the dark on whether Jones or Barrett. That complicates preparations for veteran Tech coach Frank Beamer, who knows defense. But much of the game-planning has been guesswork on which quarterback(s) will play and if Miller will be used innovatively.

If this were a midseason matchup, Tech could stay within reach. However, the difference in these two offenses is vast -- the Buckeyes ranked fifth in scoring and eight in yardage last season, miles above Tech's placement of 97th and 106th -- and the Beamers cannot score enough to keep up.

When you mix firepower with unpredictability, you are dangerous. That depicts the Buckeyes offense, which should score enough to overcome the 11 points they are giving Tech. The SportsLine Projection Model (B grade) is on the same page at OSU -11.

If the Hokies can make lightning strike twice and beat Ohio State on Labor Day, the team's season would be completely transformed once more. But an equally large factor to consider in the matter is putting on a show for the recruits in attendance. Of the 2016 class, 12 of the team's 16 commits will be on hand to do a little recruiting and soak in the scene in Blacksburg.

After intensive efforts reaching out to Tech recruits and verbal commitments, The Key Play has been able to confirm that more than 30 prospects will be on hand to watch the Hokies against the Buckeyes Monday night. The bulk of the program's 2016 recruiting class should be in attendance; their names are denoted with an asterisk below.

When all is said and done, the gap between Ohio State's and Virginia Tech's offenses should be much, much wider than the gap between the team's defenses -- which, of course, is why one team is the defending national champion and a two touchdown favorite, and the other isn't. But the home-field advantage, the Buckeyes' missing receivers, and the Hokies' defensive excellence mean the game could come down to one bounce of the ball all the same. And as well all learned in this same matchup last year, there's no guarantee that bounce will go the way of the "better" team.

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