This is more hunch than handicapping, more feel than football. After watching
four times in-person and
five, I think the Hokies are better. Not as superior as past seasons, but certainly a notch above.
So why pick the Cavaliers to win the 93rd edition of this rivalry? Why pick against a 10-1 team that’s fifth in the
standings? Why go counter to Tech’s unprecedented – 11 victories in 12 years, 10 by double-digits – domination of Virginia?
Several reasons, none of which is the Cavaliers’ home-field “advantage.” The Hokies have won an
-record 12 consecutive road games, and they’ll have thousands of fans inside Scott Stadium.
Nor is this a random, blame-the-food-coma, throw-out-the-records-when-these-teams-play pick. This is about the 8-3 Cavs, how well they’re playing this month, how poised they’ve been, and how they’re long past due to topple Tech.
One drive convinced me. Actually, 37 seconds did.
Trailing 13-7 last week at
, Virginia took possession at its own 25 with 1:53 remaining. The Seminoles lead the ACC in scoring defense, total defense and rushing defense. The Cavaliers had gone seven straight series without penetrating Florida State’s 45-yard line.
Virginia appeared doomed to its ninth loss in as many games at FSU, a result that would have gift-wrapped the ACC Coastal Division for Virginia Tech.
So much for appearances.
Five plays and 37 seconds later, after Kevin Parks’ 10-yard touchdown run and Robert Randolph’s extra point, Virginia led 14-13.
A comedy of errors ensued, finally ending when the Seminoles Dustin Hopkins missed a 42-yard field goal.
It was the Cavaliers’ fifth victory this season by a touchdown or less, their fourth settled in the final minute. That speaks to confidence, calm and talent absent of late in Charlottesville.
And also daring. London and his staff are not shy about faking kicks or calling gadget plays. Their best this season: a 37-yard touchdown pass from tailback Perry Jones to Tim Smith that gave the Cavaliers a 17-0 lead at
Don’t be surprised if Virginia unveils something new and wacky Saturday. An onside kick to start the game or second half? A fake punt from Cavaliers territory?
Question is, will the Hokies be fooled?
Of course, this pick could go awry, witness my forecast of Virginia finishing fifth in the Coastal Division at 6-6. Logan Thomas, David Wilson and Danny Coale could expose Virginia’s defense, while James Gayle and Kyle Fuller harass Michael Rocco into the mistakes he’s avoided this month.
But led by tackle Oday Aboushi, the Cavaliers have a formidable offensive line that has been intact for every game, clearing paths for tailbacks Jones, Kevin Parks and
. That running attack has set up play-action passes, and subsequently, Virginia has defied expectations and ended futility on several levels.
Seven-game ACC road losing streak? Snapped. Eight-game futility at Florida State? History. Thirteen-game November schnide? Done.
Saturday, Virginia exorcises its most haunting demon, 24-21.
I'm sure many (most?) disagree.