Alabama is favored in Week 1 by one touchdown for each of the three first-round picks it graduated to the NFL in April's draft. It means the defending-champion Crimson Tide lay 21 points in a neutral-site matchup with Virginia Tech Saturday as they kick off a season where they hope to make history as the first team to win three straight national championships.
Since 2002, Alabama has been favored by 20 or more points away from home six times and covered the spread each time, according to the OddsShark.com college football database.
And as usual, they are expected to do so without a hitch with some of the nation's best prospects always waiting in the wings. QB AJ McCarron and RB T.J. Yeldon's return should keep the offense running smoothly, and the defense is always among the country's best under Nick Saban.
Virginia Tech had a rare off year last year, going just 7-6 SU and 4-9 ATS after assembling eight straight 10-win seasons before 2012. Frank Beamer's group doesn't figure to be down for long; the Hokies return most of the key pieces of what should be an excellent defense this season. QB Logan Thomas should improve after a disappointing season last year.
But while the Hokies may be able to get back on track in ACC play, can they stack up against powerhouse Alabama? The answer, in short, is probably no. Virginia Tech's fast and athletic defensive line should do well in conference play, but will be undersized and likely worn down against Alabama's big boys up front.
Thomas may eventually figure it out at quarterback this season, but it probably won't be against this defense. Three touchdowns is a lot of points to give up away from home, but Bama has done it successfully in the past.
PICK: Alabama -20.5 | Matchup Preview