National blogger Andrea Adelson and I had a bit of a disagreement recently on the outcome of tonight's game between Virginia Tech and Boise State. Here's a look at our war o' words via e-mail:
Heather Dinich: Alright, Andrea, it's time to (wo)man up and make some predictions. The Labor Day matchup between Boise State and Virginia Tech has been one of the most anticipated games of the season, as it will go a long way in making or breaking national championship hopes for both teams. The Broncos won't stand a chance at the national title unless they're undefeated (again), and this blogger says the Hokies will ruin that dream for them in Week 1. Why? Well, let's start with the simple fact that it's a home game for Virginia Tech, and anyone who doesn't think so is fooling themselves. Boise State has to travel 2,100 miles across the country to play in one of Virginia Tech's biggest alumni bases and recruiting hotbeds. Check out the seating chart. About three-quarters of FedEx Field has been reserved for Virginia Tech fans, many who only have to travel a whopping 280 miles from Blacksburg. What say you?
Andrea Adelson: I say you are absolutely right. Virginia Tech does have the home-field advantage. But last time I checked, teams playing close to home are not guaranteed a win. In 2007, Boise State won at Autzen Stadium in Oregon, arguably one of the most difficult places to play in the entire country. No way is Boise State intimidated going on the road. Most times, the Broncos have to settle for these one-and-done games because major teams from AQ conferences refuse to play them at home. What benefits Boise State is the 8 p.m. kickoff. We are not talking about a dreaded 1 p.m. kick that would like be playing in the morning out in Idaho.
Dinich: Fair enough, but last time I checked, Boise State was 1-3 on the road against BCS opponents. You sure the Broncos can hang with the big boys on the East Coast? More importantly, how are they going to stop the 1-2 punch of 1,000-yard rushers Darren Evans and Ryan Williams? Boise State struggled last year against the best backs it faced. Ryan Matthews? 234 yards and three touchdowns. Vai Taua of Nevada had 160 yards and a touchdown. The Hokies will present twice the problems.
Adelson: That is the key to the game right there. Boise State understands this, and knows it is going to take sound tackling and a near-perfect game plan to slow down the dual running back threat. Watch for Winston Venable and Jeron Johnson to come up from their defensive back spots to help load the box. Oh, and last time I checked, there was only one ball on the field. So unless Virginia Tech has a way for both players to carry the ball at the same time, Boise State will have to deal with tackling just one guy. Evans is coming off a knee injury, too, so we have no idea what to expect out of him now that he is going to get hit for the first time in more than a year. As for those big rushing games – I believe Boise State won despite the gaudy numbers. Now I have a question for you -- how will a defense missing three of its top four tacklers and seven starters slow down the high-powered Boise State offense?
Dinich: Remind me not to mess with you this season. I'll stick to picking on Chris Low. You're right, Virginia Tech's defense is its biggest question. Only six players on the defensive roster have started two or more games. But it's not like Bud Foster hasn't had to reload his defenses before, and still, no team in the FBS has played more consistent defense over the past six years, allowing 268.33 yards per game over a span of 80 games. I don't see any reason for that to change. Virginia Tech has bigger athletes and more depth, and has had all summer to prepare for the Broncos' misdirection. Go ahead and have the last word. You're gonna need it.
Adelson: Boise State has played against teams with bigger athletes before, so that really is not a factor, in my opinion. And the Broncos have had all summer to prepare for Virginia Tech and its running back/quarterback combo. We are talking about one of the most experienced teams in the country, with 20 starters returning. They have played and won a BCS game. They have beaten Oregon twice in a row now. They understand what it takes to win against teams that might be bigger or faster. And they understand how much is at stake this season. Virginia Tech might look as thought it has advantages on paper, but nobody ever wins games that way.