Bama will help Hokies focus quickly

Harlem-Shakin’ Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has embraced the fact his team is opening the season against the defending national champs, Alabama, on Aug. 31 in the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Virginia Tech is likely to start the season unranked after finishing a pedestrian 7-6 last season, a record that doesn’t quite capture the disappointment of what was one of the worst seasons the program has had in two decades. Alabama, meanwhile, wrapped up its second straight national title last season and third in four years.

Underdogs? Understatement.

No matter. Just having Alabama on the schedule has already created an added intensity within the program.

“I think when you open up with a team like Alabama, it makes everything better,” Beamer said. “It makes our workouts better, it makes spring practice better, it makes summer workouts better, it makes preseason practice better. You see a team that’s really, really good and won the national championship a couple times here lately. To get your game up to that level and be able to compete at that level, that’s a challenge, but I think it’s a challenge that makes all of our preparation better.”

Virginia Tech, as a team, should be better -- much better -- than it was in 2012. Although the Hokies have to start the season with the most difficult opponent in the country, they don’t have to play their first ACC game until Sept. 26, a Thursday night game at Georgia Tech. They don’t have to leave Blacksburg again until Nov. 2 -- a whole month at home. It’s a favorable schedule, and one they should be well-prepared for, considering they’ll have to be playing their best football of the year in Week 1.