Hokies and Cavs meet for ACC's Coastal Division crown
Charlottesville, VA – A pair of top-25 foes clash in ranked Virginia Tech Hokies take on the 24th- ranked Virginia Cavaliers with the ACC's Coastal Division title hanging in the balance.
Frank Beamer's Hokies have won 10 of their 11 games this season and sit atop the Coastal Division at 6-1. With last week's 24-21 win over North Carolina, Virginia Tech posted its 10th win. The Hokies are the only team in the FBS ranks to win 10 games in the last eight seasons.
The win over UNC was Beamer's 250th in 31 years at the helm, and he was clearly pleased with his team's performance. "I'm proud of our team, I'm proud of our coaches. We've battled all year long and hung in there. Some of it hasn't been smooth, but we've found a way to win."
Mike London has to be considered a favorite for ACC Coach of the Year, as his Cavaliers have remained in the hunt for a spot in the ACC championship game with four straight wins down the stretch. Virginia went into Tallahassee last weekend and wrestled a 14-13 decision away from Florida State to set up this epic battle.
London was quick to praise his team for the effort put forth last week in Tallahassee, "It was a great win for the program - for the players and coaches," He continued, "Coming into a place like this -- it's got great college football tradition - and win like this, it might be one of the best wins I've been involved with in my whole coaching career, including the championship at Richmond."
The winner of this game captures the Coastal Division crown and takes on Clemson in the ACC Title game. Tech leads the all-time series with Virginia, 50-37-5 and has won 11 of the last 12 meetings.
The Hokies have hit their stride on the offensive side of the football of late and although the team still relies heavily on the run (201.3 ypg), the emergence of Logan Thomas under center has created balance that is hard to defend.
Thomas has completed 60.4 percent of his passes this year, for 2,338 yards and 16 TDs. His top targets are wideouts Jarrett Boykin (50 receptions, 629 yards, four TDs) and Danny Coale (48 receptions, 761 yards, three TDs).
Thomas has also been a factor on the ground with nine rushing TDs, but the bulk of the work has been done by All-American candidate David Wilson, who has rushed for 1,442 yards and seven TDs.
Not much has changed on the defensive side of things for Virginia Tech. The team is allowing just 16.9 ppg this year, while yielding just 307.5 yards of total offense.
The team lost a true leader when LB Bruce Taylor went down to injury, but others have stood up in his place. Safety Antone Exum is one of those playmakers, currently leading the team in tackles (65). Sophomore ends J.R. Collins (46 tackles, 8.0 TFLs, 6,0 sacks) and James Gayle (29 tackles, 8.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks) have been effective bookends. Kyle Fuller (52 tackles, 11.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks) and Jayron Hosley (46 tackles, three INTs) highlight the play in the secondary.
Although Virginia was held to a season-low 76 yards rushing last week against Florida State, the Cavaliers have relied heavily on the ground game to fuel the offense. The team is averaging a steady 177.6 yards per game rushing, on 4.4 yards per carry. Perry Jones leads the team in rushing with 870 yards and five TDs.
The passing attack has found some stability of late now that London has settled on Michael Rocco as the starter. Rocco has completed 60.3 percent of his throws on the season, for 2,148 yards, but he has thrown 11 TDs against nine INTs. Wideout Kris Burd is the top option on the outside, leading the team with 53 catches, for 710 yards and one TD.
The Virginia defense has played well this season and is a big reason the Cavs are in the position they are. Opponents are putting up 20.8 ppg on Virginia this season, on 337.1 yards of offense.
Steve Greer is the most active defender, leading the way with 94 tackles, 6.0 TFLs, two sacks and one fumble recovery. LaRoy Reynolds is a distant second in tackles (74). Rodney McLeod and Chase Minnifield have been ballhawks, with a combined seven INTs on the season.