Before Saturday’s season-opening game against Appalachian State, Virginia Tech will honor Coach Frank Beamer during a pregame ceremony. It’s his 25th year at the helm of the football program, a noteworthy distinction in this age of scandals, escalating salaries and quick-trigger decisions.

But often forgotten now that the Hokies enjoy the first-class facilities and television exposure befitting one of the country’s consistent winners is how hard the lean years were. Beamer was hamstrung with NCAA sanctions when he arrived at Virginia Tech in 1987, and sported a 24-40-1 record following a 2-8-1 season in 1992.

“I feel very fortunate, fortunate to have the administration here when I first began,” Beamer said last month. “There’s been a lot of good coaches and good players and the administration has hung around when most wouldn’t these days after about the first three or four or five years. . . .

“I was just trying to get to next week. I don’t know if I ever sat down and said it’s gonna be this and this and this, but I can tell you I always thought we were gonna be successful. I couldn’t tell you the exact plan. Didn’t know that you were gonna become a member of the Big East and then the ACC and so forth, but I just thought this school was too good academically, the state of Virginia was too good football-wise.”

Beamer is 16-8 in season openers at Virginia Tech, but he hasn’t started a year with a win since 2007. If the Hokies hope to get off that schneid and celebrate Beamer’s quarter century in Blacksburg with a victory, here’s three things to watch Saturday:

1) What will the offense look like?

In previous opening-game losses to East Carolina (2008), Alabama (2009) and Boise State (2010), the Hokies’ offense has started sluggishly. With a new play caller, a new quarterback and a new starting tailback, a fast start would be ideal – especially because it could make Appalachian State’s option-oriented attack more one-dimensional.

2) How will the Hokies’ run defense perform?

Virginia Tech struggled defending the option against James Madison and Georgia Tech last year, but Appalachian State will be playing a bunch of first-year starters on the offensive line. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has praised the overall speed of his defense, and slowing down Mountaineers quarterback DeAndre Presley would be a good sign that Virginia Tech has improved from the unit that gave up 25 runs of 20 yards or more in 2010.

3) The unknown variable

That’s what offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring called the new 3-4 defensive scheme Appalachian State will debut Saturday. The Hokies don’t face many defenses like this and haven’t been able to prepare as diligently as they would have liked since there’s no game film of the Mountaineers yet. It will be interesting to see how quickly Virginia Tech can identify and implement in-game adjustments.

The Hokies are not overlooking Appalachian State, not with the James Madison loss perpetually hanging over them. But I’m not convinced Virginia Tech’s defense will be able to shut down Presley and company. Expect a lot of points in this one.

My prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Appalachian State 28

How do you see Saturday’s game going? Let me know in the comments section.