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Learning from or repeating history? Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott vs. Hokies LBs

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Virginia Tech's linebackers were able to contain an inexperienced Ezekiel Elliott last season. Scott Clarke/ESPN Images

This week, we are taking look at the important position matchups that went Virginia Tech's way in its victory over Ohio State last year, and what has changed as they head into their rematch Monday night in Blacskburg, Virginia.

Matchup: Running back Ezekiel Elliott versus Virginia Tech linebackers

What happened last year: Elliott made his second career start against the Hokies and finished with only eight carries for 32 yards and a touchdown. While Ohio State worked on figuring out its featured running back, the Buckeyes turned to quarterback J.T. Barrett and his ability to make plays with his legs. It was Barrett who led all rushers with a season-high 24 carries for 70 yards and a score (he did lose 50 yards on seven sacks). What made Virginia Tech so effective against the run was not only its defensive line but its disciplined linebackers, led by Deon Clarke and veteran Chase Williams. The two combined for 17 tackles. Of those 17, only two came on pass plays. On the runs they helped stop, Elliott ended up with the longest rush: 5 yards. Add in to the mix rover Kyshoen Jarrett, a key cog in the Virginia Tech run defense, and the Hokies had experienced players with the ability to put the brakes on anything Ohio State wanted to do on the ground. Ohio State ended up averaging 2.7 yards per rush, its lowest on the season.

What is different this year: The Buckeyes were young on the offensive line and at times bewildered by Virginia Tech's unique defensive front, and Elliott wasn't all that much more experienced in just his second game as the featured tailback. But Ohio State grew up quickly in the trenches as the season progressed, and Elliott blossomed into one of the most feared rushers in the nation by the time the postseason rolled around, gashing Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon for nearly 700 yards and 8 touchdowns on the way to the national title. Elliott also wasn't fully healthy a year ago while dealing with a bum wrist, but that also isn't going to be an issue this time around. And on the flip side, if there's a suspect unit on a talent-laden Virginia Tech defense, the linebackers qualify -- and how they handle Elliott and the zone-read rushing attack will be crucial.

Ohio State X-factor: Elliott is one of the most gifted tailbacks in the nation, but he is always the first to admit that he can't change a game by himself. He's quick to deflect the spotlight to the Ohio State offensive line, and after that group had troubles on the interior a year ago, the focus against the Hokies should be on the guards, including preseason All-American Pat Elflein.

Virginia Tech X-factor: Andrew Motuapuaka takes over for Williams in the middle, and his play is going to be critical in helping the Hokies repeat their upset. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said he's got high expectations for Motuapuaka -- and it all begins Monday Next Monday night.