The championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division all comes down to an in-state rivalry game.
And No. 23 Virginia Tech knows it can claim the division for the seventh time by simply keeping its winning streak alive.
The Hokies (8-3, 5-2) have won every meeting against the Virginia Cavaliers — their hated upstate foe — since joining the ACC in 2004.
That’s 15 up, 15 down in a series whose matchup is circled on the state’s collective calendar each fall.
Virginia Tech travels northeast to Charlottesville to face Virginia (8-3, 5-2) on Friday afternoon at Scott Stadium, with the winner earning a chance to face undefeated No. 3 Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Charlotte, N.C.
The Hokies’ resounding 28-0 win over Pittsburgh last Saturday set up the winner-take-all scenario. A forceful defensive performance held the Panthers to just 177 total yards — a minuscule 60 on 27 rushing attempts.
The shutout showing was the second in two weeks — they blanked Georgia Tech 45-0 in Atlanta — and the defense has allowed just 17 points in its last three games, including a 36-17 victory over high-scoring Wake Forest.
The defense has held the opposition scoreless on 32 consecutive possessions since the third quarter of the Nov. 9 win over the Demon Deacons.
Virginia Tech’s turnaround after an embarrassing 45-10 home loss to Duke on Sept. 27 has been striking.
With a national audience watching on a Friday night, the Blue Devils pulled out all the stops and scored on a trick play right before halftime to cap a 91-yard scoring drive for a 21-3 halftime lead.
The loss, which left the Hokies 0-2 in the ACC, was their worst at home since a 49-12 defeat against Houston on Sept. 28, 1974, and coach Justin Fuente said his squad was not ready to compete on Duke’s level.
But all that has changed after winning six of the last seven, dropping only a 21-20 decision in the last minute at Notre Dame.
“They’re a special group of young men,” Fuente said after beating Pittsburgh. “They’ve been through special circumstances and stuck together. So my feelings toward them haven’t changed because they’re winning games now.”
Virginia Tech is 3-3 in the ACC’s title game, while Virginia has never reached the championship contest.
Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall immediately started focusing on the Hokies after his team defeated Liberty 55-27 on Saturday.
The fourth-year Virginia coach showered praise on the Virginia Tech program that former coach Frank Beamer built and Fuente has maintained — which has its foundation based in defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s 25 years of stopping opposing offenses.
“We’re talking now about an opponent that has qualified for (27) straight bowl games and has made a commitment to football that has lasted for a long time,” Mendenhall said.
UVA appeared to be the Coastal frontrunner after winning four straight to open the season. However, a stretch of three losses in four games — two to ACC opponents Miami and Louisville — kept the divisional race tight.
November wins over North Carolina and Georgia Tech set up Friday’s Commonwealth Cup showdown.
Virginia has failed twice at home against the Hokies with a chance to claim the division in the season-ending game, losing 33-21 in 2007 and 38-0 in 2011.
–Field Level Media