Running back Perry Jones (870 rushing yards, 41 catches for 416 yards) has been U.Va.'s primary weapon. Quarterback Michael Rocco has thrown eight touchdowns and one interception in the last five games. Wide receiver Kris Burd leads the team with 53 catches for 710 yards. Only 16 teams have given up fewer sacks than U.Va. (11)
U.Va.'s improved rush defense (123.4 yards per game this season, 28th in the nation; 203.7 yards per game last season, 106th in the nation) has made defensive coordinator Jim Reid a nominee for the Broyles Award (nation's top assistant coach). Cornerback Chase Minnifield leads a pass defense that has given up 33 plays of 20-plus yards, but has made some huge stops, too (see Minnifield against Florida State).
Robert Randolph (15 of 21 FGs) has made four of his last five field goals. Jimmy Howell is averaging just 39 yards per punt, but his rugby style could keep the ball away from Tech's Jayron Hosley. Punt returning has been shaky, with Jones and freshmen Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings sharing the role. Matt Conrath (three blocks) is a threat on field-goal blocks.
By winning four consecutive games down the stretch to get in this winner-take-all Coastal Division position, and restoring some optimism around the program, Mike London is a top candidate for ACC coach of the year honors. Players have bought in to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's pro-style offense, and adjusted well in year two of Reid's 4-3 look.
For the first time since the '08 season-opener, Scott Stadium is supposed to be sold out for a game. The question will be whether the stands will be filled with Hokie fans that snatched up tickets, or if Cavaliers fans finally will return to the scene in full force.
Three keys to U.Va. win
Get physical with Thomas
Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has gotten a lot of pats on the back for being a bruiser when he runs. If linebackers Steve Greer, LaRoy Reynolds or Aaron Taliaferro can get clean shots on him and bring him down for short gains (or no gains) a few times, there's no telling what kind of psychological effect it could have on U.Va.'s defense.
Keep Wilson contained
With his speed, Tech running back David Wilson is a dangerous player if he can hit the corner and scoot up the sideline. Forcing him to cut back inside or run between the tackles (where he has been prone to fumbling the ball) could create some frustration for Wilson.
Look for a defender and hit him
London has often discussed the importance of having linemen, receivers and fullbacks running downfield looking for defensive players to hit. A big reason the 5-foot-8 Jones and 5-8 running Kevin Parks (644 rushing yards) have been so successful is because they've been able to hide behind massive blockers to get extra yards, and they've been the beneficiaries of good downfield blocking.
Logan Thomas has been arguably the ACC's most efficient quarterback in the last two months, accounting for 20 touchdowns in the last six games. Running back David Wilson leads the ACC (third in nation) with 1,442 rushing yards. Jarrett Boykin (50 catches for 629 yards) and Danny Coale (48 catches for 761 yards) are the best receivers in school history. Tech has given up just 12 sacks.
Despite losing three starters to season-ending injuries, and dealing with bumps and bruises to other key players, Tech is still 12th in the nation in total defense (307.6 yards per game). While cornerback Jayron Hosley hasn't been quite the same All-American player he was last season, Kyle Fuller (team-high 11 1/2 tackles for losses) has been All-ACC material splitting time at cornerback and outside linebacker.
Cody Journell has been solid overall (12 of 15 field goals), but his range is questionable. Tech is averaging 34.8 yards per punt — the worst season average of coach Frank Beamer's 25-year tenure. Hosley and Wilson haven't been dynamic in the return game. Tech is in danger of not having a blocked field goal or punt against an FBS opponent all season for the first time in Beamer's career.
Beamer's decision to move quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain into the play-calling role this season looks brilliant, considering Tech is 36th in the nation in total offense (424.1 yards per game). Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring has earned a nomination for the Broyles Award. Taking all of the injuries into account, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has done one of his best jobs.
A seven-game winning streak in the rivalry speaks for itself. There's opportunity for distraction to creep in if Tech's players get caught pondering all the what-ifs in the BCS situation, but Beamer has stressed to his players that none of those remote possibilities will exist if they don't take care of business at U.Va.
Three keys to Tech win
While defensive end J.R. Collins leads Tech with a modest six sacks, the Hokies still are tied for eighth in the nation with 33 sacks. U.Va.'s quarterbacks have been sacked multiple times in a game just twice this season (three times against Idaho and three times at FSU). Making Rocco feel some heat could get him out of the rhythm he's in.
Wilson had a streak of seven consecutive 100-plus rushing-yard games snapped in Tech's 24-21 win against North Carolina. He has been criticized for fumbling, and he's just 214 yards away from becoming Tech's single-season rushing yardage leader. Channeling any desire he has to prove himself (possibly to NFL types?) into his on-field performance could be big for Tech.
Get U.Va.'s offense off the field
Tech is the best in the ACC and eighth in the nation in third down efficiency defense (31.8 percent; U.Va. is 11th at 32.1 percent). U.Va. hasn't been spectacular at converting on third downs (40.2 percent, 65th in the nation). If that trend keeps up, Tech will control time of possession (average of 34 minutes, 11 seconds per game; sixth in the nation).Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times