Virginia Tech-Boise State, the centerpiece of college football's opening week, likely hinges on two questions.
Can the Hokies' offensive line bulldoze the Broncos, allowing Tech to control the clock and keep Boise's potent offense plastered to the bench?
Can the Hokies' defense pressure quarterback Kellen Moore, disrupting the Broncos' rapid-fire passing attack and forcing turnovers?
Two Peninsula District alums may well provide the answers.
Denbigh High graduate Jaymes Brooks, a fourth-year junior, is entering his second season as the starting right guard. At 6-foot-2, 296 pounds, Brooks is neither tall nor hefty by o-line standards, but he's a proven run blocker sandwiched between center Beau Warren and tackle Blake DeChristopher.
With Tech breaking in new starters — guard Greg Nosal and hobbled tackle Nick Becton (turf toe) — on the left side, the offense figures to be predominantly right-handed Monday night in Landover, Md. If the line can outmuscle and/or outwit Boise's defensive front, then the Hokies can sustain drives and play keepaway.
And it won't take much. Tailbacks Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson need just a seam to gain 5 yards or more.
What about Tyrod Taylor? Wasn't Tech's senior quarterback Brady-like during preseason camp?
Point well-taken. Taylor was a combined 27-of-33 in three scrimmages, an outrageous 16-for-17 in last Saturday's final tune-up. Granted, the opposition was the second defense, but 456 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception are rather tidy numbers.
Yet Monday may not be the time for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and head coach Frank Beamer to abandon their conservative leanings. Boise's offense returns every starter from a unit that led the nation in scoring last season at 42.2 points per game, while Tech's defense returns just four.
"There have been times in the past when we've made opportunities for our offense," defensive coordinator Bud Foster told HokieSports.com after the third scrimmage. " Hopefully, they can keep us off the field and make us a great defense."
When a DC of Foster's repute is publicly pleading for ball-control, it's probably wise to listen.
Regardless of how long the offense retains possession, the keys for Foster's bunch are pressure and positioning. Sacks are probably a pipe dream — the Broncos' passes are too quick, and they yielded only five sacks in 14 games last season — but general harassment sure would help Tech's cause.
Which is where the second Peninsula District product emerges.
Steven Friday was part of two state championship teams at Phoebus. He's a fifth-year defensive end who's undersized at 250 pounds — he's bulked up 15 since the spring — and yet to start a college game.
But coaches named Friday the most improved defender during spring practice, and if any of the Hokies' edge rushers are to invade Moore's personal space, the likeliest is Friday. He played in all but one game last season behind Jason Worilds and Nekos Brown and contributed seven hurries and 3.5 sacks.
Plus, Friday is 6-4, four inches taller than Moore. Just getting his hands up and elevating a bit could affect Moore's vision.
For all of the Broncos' pyrotechnics on offense, they aren't unstoppable. Texas Christian limited them to 317 yards and 17 points last season, 250 and 17 the season prior.
Positioning will be paramount for Friday and the Hokies' other defensive newcomers. Alabama exploited Tech's inexperience in last season's opener for nine plays of 15 yards or more, five of 30 or more.
Similar breakdowns Monday spell certain defeat, not to mention heckling from those who consider the Hokies perpetual pretenders.
Swarming defense and old-school offense should translate to victory and a top-five ranking.
Can't ask for bigger stakes in early September.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime, and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP. Sign up for text alerts by texting "BIGSPORTS" to 71593.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times