For Nick Saban's team, though, the season's conclusion couldn't have been a bigger disappointment.
The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide hope to start erasing those memories by getting off to another good start Saturday night at the Georgia Dome, where No. 7 Virginia Tech looks to justify the highest preseason ranking in school history.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made
The Crimson Tide won their first 12 games, beginning with a dominant 34-10 win over ninth-ranked Clemson in the inaugural
The Tide looked like a team with little to play for against the Utes, who jumped out to a 21-0 lead en route to a 31-17 win.
"We didn't finish the season like we wanted, and I'm sorry for that for (our players)," Saban said.
"A win over a great program as good as
While sophomore receiver Julio Jones may be the Crimson Tide's biggest star, their focal point remains a defense which was third in the nation overall (263.5 yards per game) and seventh in scoring (14.3 points per game) last season.
Eight returning starters will be on the field Saturday, including tackle Terrence Cody and linebacker Rolando McClain - both All-Americans. Cornerback Javier Arenas anchors the secondary, where safety Rashad Johnson was the lone significant loss.
Yet, when any talk of this potentially being
"Where it is now, we gave up 31 points in the last two games we played," said Saban, who signed an extension Saturday that will keep him in
One additional starter was set to return, but defensive end Brandon Deaderick was shot in the arm Monday during a robbery attempt, an injury described as "not life threatening," but still one that leaves his playing status in doubt.
Virginia Tech (10-4) also will be missing a key player, but while Deaderick may return this season, Hokies tailback Darren Evans won't. The sophomore, who ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns last season, tore his ACL in preseason practice.
Redshirt freshman Ryan Williams is expected to start in the backfield.
Beamer can take solace in the fact that, unlike
That isn't to say junior Tyrod Taylor doesn't need to improve. He threw two touchdown passes in 173 attempts last season but ran for seven scores, one in the Hokies' 20-7 Orange Bowl win over
"He's exactly the type of player you want leading a football team," Beamer said.
"It always helps you as a quarterback to be the guy," quarterbacks coach Matt O'Cain said. "From day one, you're the guy. When you are able to go through spring practice as the quarterback, go through the summer as the quarterback, come in in August as the quarterback, it's a tremendous advantage. You just carry yourself in a different way."
All games in this series since 1992
VIRGINIA TECH is 1-0 against the spread versus
VIRGINIA TECH is 1-0 straight up against
1 of 1 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL since 1992
Key Player Injuries:
No significant injuries.
No significant injuries.
Posted: 9/1/09 8:58PM ET