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Virginia (4-7) at (13) Virginia Tech (9-2)
Saturday, November 27th, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Commonwealth Cup is up for grabs this weekend, as the 13th- ranked Virginia Tech Hokies play host to the Virginia Cavaliers.
Not much has gone right for Virginia this season, as it owns a 4-7 overall record, including a horrendous 1-6 mark versus ACC competition. The last three outings have resulted in defeat for the Cavaliers, including last weekend's 17-13 setback at Boston College. Virginia has yet to win on the road in 2010, and doing so in Blacksburg is no easy task.
"It's a tough loss, but you always have to learn from things like this," said UVA head coach Mike London after the loss to Boston College. "Players have to learn that the margin for error is so thin."
As for Virginia Tech, it needs one more win this season to become the only FBS program to have 10 or more victories in each of the last seven seasons, a tremendous accomplishment for Frank Beamer and his staff. At 9-2, including a perfect record in ACC play, the Hokies have already clinched the Coastal Division title and will face either Florida State or NC State in the conference championship game. Beamer's squad is also attempting to be the first ACC member to go unbeaten in league play since FSU in 2000. Tech's season got off to a shaky start with back-to-back losses to Boise State and FCS foe James Madison, but nine straight wins have the Hokies playing with a wealth of confidence.
"You come back from two, I say devastating, losses within a week...I don't think you come back from that unless you have really good people on your football team and really good people leading your football team," Beamer said.
Virginia Tech owns a 49-37-5 series advantage over Virginia, which includes six straight wins over the Cavaliers.
Through 11 games this season, Virginia is averaging 27.0 ppg while racking up 415.2 total ypg. Tailback Keith Payne has a leg injury, but he is expected to be able to play through pain this weekend and build on the 741 yards and 14 touchdowns he has compiled thus far. Perry Jones is another productive runner who has churned out 635 yards on the ground. Marc Verica is the club's quarterback, and he has completed 58.8 percent of his passes for 2,631 yards with 14 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. Kris Burd leads the club's receivers with 55 catches for 752 yards and five scores, while Dontrelle Inman has turned his 48 grabs into 750 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, Virginia is limiting opponents to 27.5 ppg on 397.3 total ypg. The Cavaliers struggle to stop the run, as they are permitting 5.1 ypc and 203.9 ypg on the ground. In fact, of the 37 touchdowns that have been surrendered to opposing offenses, 24 have been of the rushing variety. The Cavaliers, who are yielding 13.5 yards per pass completion, have come up with 16 takeaways and 18 sacks, numbers that aren't going to scare Tech at all. Cam Johnson paces Virginia with 6.5 sacks, while Chase Minnifield has posted six interceptions.
Last week against Boston College, Virginia posted 421 total yards, including 284 yards through the air from Verica. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to throw a single touchdown pass on 49 attempts and was intercepted once.
"He made an ill-advised throw for an interception, but I think we had over 400 yards of total offense, which is something that hasn't been done around here in long time," said London of Verica and the offense.
Jones had a touchdown run in the clash, the only time the offense reached the end zone.
UVA was able to limit Boston College to 17 points, so the defense certainly played well enough to win last week. Sure, the Cavaliers could have played better, especially considering that the Eagles finished with 218 rushing yards at a clip of 5.2 yards per carry, but the fact that UVA allowed the opponent to reach the red zone just twice all game is impressive.
There is no doubt that Virginia Tech has what it takes offensively to exploit the Virginia defense. The Hokies are racking up 34.6 ppg and 410.8 total ypg, and the squad has scored 24 of its 43 offensive touchdowns on the ground. Darren Evans leads Tech with 678 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor checks in with 589 yards and four scores. Ryan Williams is finally healthy, and the stud tailback has run for seven touchdowns in seven games. As a passer, Taylor has connected on 60.5 percent of his throws for 2,082 yards with 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Jarrett Boykin, the team's leading receiver, has made 39 grabs for 656 yards and five scores.
Opponents are scoring 18.9 ppg against Virginia Tech, which is yielding 354.1 total ypg. The Hokies have given up 26 touchdowns to opposing offenses split evenly between the run and the pass. It is certainly impressive that they have allowed fewer than half of the passes that they have faced to be completed, and also the fact that they have notched 19 interceptions already. On a down note, the run defense could stand some improvement, especially since Tech is yielding 4.9 yards per carry.
Against Miami last weekend, Virginia Tech broke a scoreless tie in the fourth quarter when Williams raced 84 yards for a touchdown. Taylor added another touchdown run in that final stanza to put the Hurricanes away. Williams finished with 142 yards and two scores for the Hokies, who were actually outgained 464-369 in total yardage. The difference in the game was turnovers, as Tech finished with six takeaways and only one giveaway.
"To clinch the division...I mean, it feels great," said Williams after the triumph. "Words can't describe it."
There is no doubt that Virginia Tech will take care of business this weekend. The Hokies are far superior to the Cavaliers in all aspects of the game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 34, Virginia 13
11/24 11:18:25 ET