Top 25 Countdown
No. 6 Virginia Tech
• Last Season: 10-4 (defeated Cincinnati in the Orange Bowl).
• Returning Starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense).
• Key Game: vs. Alabama, Sept. 5 in Atlanta.
Why They're Worth Watching
Virginia Tech has been known for its defense and special teams play, but this year the Hokies' offense has started to generate some buzz. Tyrod Taylor has established himself as the team's quarterback. Even after the season-ending injury to the punishing Darren Evans, the backfield may still be well stocked with Josh Oglesby, Ryan Williams and David Wilson. The Hokies did not have any key losses at wide receiver, and Greg Boone might be the best tight end in the conference. The offensive line appears to be solidifying, returning three starters, including standout guard Sergio Render. Coupled with quality defense, the Hokies' offense might help bring Virginia Tech its third straight ACC title.
Player to Watch
Jason Worilds, Jr., DE
Last season, Worilds played with a separated left shoulder that popped out in three games, but he still finished second in the ACC with 18 1/2 tackles for a loss and added eight sacks. He underwent surgery in the offseason, so he should be even better this year.
Why They're Vulnerable
While the Hokies appear to be strong overall, they might not have the makeup to overcome the razor-thin margin that separates many programs in the ACC. Virginia Tech lost three games last season and were lucky to scrape by in many of its wins. While the Hokies did emerge with a second straight conference championship, they were not overwhelming. They trended upward, but other teams in the conference are moving that direction. In conference play, Georgia Tech, Miami and North Carolina could all provide tough tests. The Hokies also have a taxing nonconference schedule, opening the season against Alabama and later hosting Nebraska.
-- Mark Viera