Expect to see mirror images. The two teams are very similar. Both the Hokies and Crimson Tide win thanks to stout defense and ball-control offense.
Expect the Hokies to have trouble running the ball between the tackles against Terrence Cody and Alabama's front seven. Even though the Hokies have historically had success against a 3-4 defense (/looks at UVa), they haven't seen players like ones Alabama has.
Expect the Hokies to have some success getting pressure on Greg McElroy. Virginia Tech excels at getting pressure on the quarterback with its front four. Fortunately for the Hokies, the Crimson Tide are breaking in new offensive linemen and a new quarterback. Unfortunately for the Hokies, McElroy appears to be a good game manager and decision-maker. He'll have to get rid of the ball quickly but I expect him to make the right decision when he does. For the Hokies to have a chance, defensive end Jason Worilds has to have a helluva game.
Expect Julio Jones to be a difference maker. Alabama has the one thing the Hokies lack on offense: A deep threat at wide receiver. Stephan Virgil was impressive for Virginia Tech last year as the field cornerback. However, he is moving to the boundary this year, meaning he'll have to play more man coverage.
Expect the Hokies to lose if Tyrod Taylor is forced to win the game. Not because Tyrod is incapable of taking the team on his shoulders, but because the Hokies aren't having success with their offensive game plan if he is.
Hokies win if: They are able to get pressure on the quarterback ... they force turnovers ... they turn those turnovers into points ... they not turn the ball over ... they aren't intimidated by the Tide like another ACC team was last season.
Crimson Tide win if: They play remotely like they did against Clemson in last year's opener.
Complete 2009 Virginia Tech Football: Alabama Game Guide