Each game, we'll get the inside look at Virginia Tech's opponent by talking with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, we spoke with TideSports.com senior writer Aarono Suttles to get the inside look at Alabama.
1) Alabama has had a few suspensions and players who won't be in the game. How will that affect the Tide?
Suttles: The only officially announced suspension will be sophomore cornerback Geno Smith. Smith plays the Star defensive back in Alabama's nickel defense.
Junior Jarrick Williams has been handling those duties since Smith's DUI arrest earlier this month. Williams missed the 2012 season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. He previously played safety, so he's about 25 pounds heavier and plays more physical than Smith, which could be effective against the slot receiver.
2) Is wide receiver Amari Cooper as good as advertised in your mind?
Suttles: Yes. No question. I know this is a tough statement to believe, but he had a better freshman season than Julio Jones did in 2008. They are much different receivers, Jones a freak athlete with incredible strength and physicality, and Cooper a polished product.
Cooper runs greats routes, is fast off the line and has an elusiveness that makes a difficult matchup. He wins jump balls and keeps his feet under him to turn a big play into a touchdown. He turns what should be a no-gain wide receiver screen into a 12-yard first down.
3) Such a big deal has been made at VT of offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler being secretive and not letting a ton of info out. Do the Tide think they still have the Hokies' offense figured out? Or are they still trying to figure out what to expect?
Suttles: The players say they've watched Auburn film from last year and the Virginia Tech spring game, but how much can you actually learn from a vanilla scrimmage? Although they had great success against Loeffler and Auburn last season, they respect the threat that quarterback Logan Thomas represents and the different ways Loeffler can use him. They know what he's done in the past, but they know some new wrinkles will be thrown in Saturday.
4) Have any players or coaches talked about any spot they especially see as a weak spot for Virginia Tech?
Suttles: Not at all. They recognize the bad luck that has befallen the Hokies, but they aren't saying it's an advantage at all. In fact, asked Wednesday about Virginia Tech playing lots of freshmen, coach Nick Saban blasted an inference that it gives the Crimson Tide an advantage.
"I think this is one of those things where you assume that the guy's a freshman, he's not a good player," he said. "I don't assume that because we've had some pretty good freshmen play here. Trent Richardson played pretty good when he was a freshman. Julio Jones played pretty good. Amari Cooper played pretty good last year as a freshman. So what's to say they can't have a guy play well as a freshman? Why would you make that assumption?"
5) Do you feel like Alabama is plenty focused? Or is there any sign of looking ahead already to that Texas A&M rematch in game two?
Suttles: I don't think so. I have questions about Alabama's offensive line. Everyone assumes this offense will pick back up where it left off in Miami, but I'm not so sure. I do think moving the ball on Alabama will be a chore. With everyone talking about the offense, I tend to think the defense has been overlooked a bit.
FEARLESS PREDICTION : I'm guessing Alabama 34-13. Given different circumstances I think Alabama would be ripe for an upset here, but it seems Virginia Tech couldn't catch a break with injuries, etc.