Now that Miami has had their way with Georgia Tech, Nebraska - Virginia Tech remains the only game between two Top 25 opponents this weekend. That means the eyes of the nation should be on these teams, so it's a great opportunity for the Huskers to showcase (unless they want to hear more about USC quarterback Matt Barkeley's shoulder) how far they've come under Bo Pelini.
After the jump is who you need to watch from Virginia Tech and a projection of what's going to happen.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor
Taylor has started 17 games and has a 14-3 record. A dual-threat quarterback, much has been made about how he hurt Nebraska badly in the loss last season. Taylor is a decent quarterback, though not great, even though Frank Beamer has talked him up this week as has Taylor himself. Worry more about the perceived threat Taylor presents and the Hokie running backs will tear holes in the defense.
A redshirt freshman, Williams has taken over the starting position as Darren Evans sits the season out due to a knee injury. Williams is one of those guys that will run 40 yards to make 20, juking along the way.
True freshman back that runs a 4.33 in the 40. Wilson isn't about putting on the moves and juking people out of position, but he can stop and start quickly. Both Williams and Wilson are speed backs. Virginia Tech's only power back is.......
The Hokies will use him to bash the Husker defense. There's nothing fancy about him, and he's not a break away threat, but he will gain tough yardage when it's needed and hang onto the football doing it.
Tight End Greg Boone
Boone missed the Marshall game with an injury, but will play against Nebraska. He's a good blocker, has good hands, and will be going up against Nebraska linebackers that so far have struggled this season (although the return of Phillip Dillard and his experience might be the perfect antidote).
You may see Boone taking direct snaps out of Tech's "Wild Turkey" formation out of which the Hokies will run read option plays (not a spread, zone read as you might think).
Defensive End Jason Worilds
Worilds presents a problem for the Husker offense. He'll spend most of the game on the left side of the line against Marcel Jones. Last season, Worilds lead the Tech defensive linemen in tackles 62), lead the team in tackles for loss (18.5), and lead the team with eight sacks, good enough to finish fourth in the ACC despite playing most of the season injured. The season was good enough to earn him second-team All-ACC honors.
If he's not contained, Worilds can change the football game.
Linebacker Cody Grimm
The Gobble Country guys refer to him as deathbacker. There's a good reason for that, as last season Grimm was third on the team in tackles despite starting only one game. He finished second in tackles for loss (14) and tied for second in sacks (7.5).
Lane Stadium - Louder Than You Think
The Hokies' home, Lane Stadium, has a capacity of (only) over 66,000, much less than Memorial Stadium's 85,000, so you might be tempted to think it can't be as loud. However, the stands are close to the field and the stands more vertical, so that all the sound is projected onto the field. That's why Lane Stadium has earned it's reputation as one of the toughest places to play
Noting A Pet Peeve
Can we collectively get over the hand-wringing about the Husker defense? They've given up 12 points in the first two games, but by the sounds of the internets you'd swear they'd nearly lost ‘em.
What Both Teams Want To Do
Both Virginia Tech and Nebraska will focus on stopping the other team from running the ball, but for slightly different reasons.
Nebraska will want to stop the run because that will take Virginia Tech out of their comfort zone, as a key to their success is a good running game. The Huskers will want to force Tyrod Taylor into throwing the ball, to make him prove that he can win a game with his arm. Stopping the run will be tougher than it sounds - it's time for Pierre Allen and Barry Turner to have big games because the Hokies will work their speed backs to get to the edge and take advantage of our youthful linebackers.
Virginia Tech will want to stop the run and force Nebraska into obvious passing downs. They'll want to disrupt the timing of the passing game and get pressure on Zac Lee to force him into making mistakes. In fact, they'll count on it. That's the way they play football. They currently have a 33-game non-conference winning streak at home.
I'm not so sure that by trying to stop the run they'll play right into Nebraska's hands. There's nothing other than history that says the Huskers have to run the ball successfully to win games. Times have changed.
You can't write an article about Virginia Tech without mentioning "Beamer Ball", head coach Frank Beamer's emphasis on using special teams to win ball games. Beamer coaches that unit himself, utilizing many of his best players on special teams.
Punter Brent Bowden is (so far) one of the best punters in the nation, averaging nearly 46 yards per punt. Dyrell Roberts (I wonder if he has two other brothers named Dyrell... sorry, bad and esoteric joke) is ranked fourth in the nation in kickoff returns, averaging 48.75 per return and having scored a kick return touchdown already this season. Jayron Hosley is ranked fifth in the nation in kick returns, with nearly 25 yards pre return and has already returned a kick for touchdown.
All of that, and I haven't even mentioned the Hokies knack for blocking field goals.
What's Going to Happen
If Virginia Tech moves to stop the run, it'll open up the passing game, and I'm not just talking about Mike McNeill and the rest of our tight ends against their linebackers. Niles Paul and Curenski Gilleylen will have big games as the Hokies have struggled in pass coverage.
Virginia Tech's offense will move the ball against our defense well enough to keep them in the game for all four quarters. Tyrod Taylor will make some big plays, but not enough to win the game by himself.
The key question is - who's going to make more mistakes, Zac Lee or Tyrod Taylor? You might be tempted to say Lee due to his youth, but the Hokies offensive line can't pass protect worth a darn, which leaves our man Ndamukong Suh in a great position to make some big plays. Maybe pick up an interception himself.
I like our offense against their defense. Their offense against our defense is about even. That means as long as we stay even or ahead of Virginia Tech in the turnover battle that we should win this game.
Final score prediction will be in the prediction segments we release shortly. Stay tuned.