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Preview: No. 1 Alabama, Virginia Tech set to kickoff 2013 season in Atlanta

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Top-ranked Alabama will kickoff the 2013 season in Atlanta, Ga. at the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech, Saturday, August 31, 2013. Top-ranked Alabama will kickoff the 2013 season in Atlanta, Ga. at the Georgia Dome against Virginia Tech, Saturday, August 31, 2013.

Game:  Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Alabama

Where:  Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Ga.

When:  4:30 p.m.

TV:  ESPN (Coverage begins at 4 p.m.)

Line: Alabama by 19-1/2.

Series record: Alabama leads 11-1.

Last meeting:  2009 (Atlanta, Ga.) -- Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24

WHAT'S AT STAKE

Virginia Tech could make quite a statement after its worst season in two decades (7-6) by becoming the first unranked team to beat a No. 1 since Oregon State's 27-21 victory over Southern California on Sept. 21, 2008. The Crimson Tide is the favorite to win a third straight national title, and a strong performance would indicate that complacency hasn't set in.

KEY MATCHUP

Alabama's defense was the nation's stingiest last season but faces a big challenge in 6-foot-6, 254-pound dual-threat quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas has 20 career rushing touchdowns and needs just 922 yards to pass Tyrod Taylor as the Hokies' top all-time passer.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Virginia Tech:

RB Trey Edmunds -- The redshirt freshman, son of NFL Pro Bowler Terrell Edmunds, could be the go-to tailback with J.C. Coleman recuperating from two sprained ankles. Coleman took over midway through last season and had 492 yards and 21 catches.

Alabama:

QB AJ McCarron -- The nation's most efficient passer in 2012, McCarron has a bounty of weapons to choose from, led by WR Amari Cooper and TB T.J. Yeldon. He said he's never had better chemistry with a group of receivers.

FACTS & FIGURES

Alabama, which won the first 10 meetings in the series, has captured national titles in four of the last five seasons when the Tide and Hokies played (1973, '78, '79 and 2009). Virginia Tech's lone series win was 38-7 in the 1998 Music City Bowl. ... The Hokies have just 10 seniors combined on their offensive and defensive two-deep. ... Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and line coach Jeff Grimes were in those positions at Auburn, which produced a meager 163 total yards against Alabama last season. Loeffler has a much more dangerous quarterback now.

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