The picks wind up a long season as the Virginia football team visits Blacksburg this weekend for the regular season finale.
UVA hasn’t won at Virginia Tech since the 1998 comeback. A lot of things have happened since Ahmad Hawkins sprinted into that end zone. The biggest change? Legendary coaches at both schools have moved on to retirement. George Welsh wrapped up his career after the 2000 season, while this marks the first year of retired life for Frank Beamer after he retired following the 2015 season.
With Beamer finally gone, can the Hoos reverse the trend of losses since that 1998 game? Virginia owns just one win – 35-21 in 2003 – since that epic comeback and the losing streak now stands at 12 games. Bronco Mendenhall’s first season in Charlottesville offers little hope of this being the year. The Cavaliers enter the rivalry game with a 2-9 record on the season, while the Hokies own an 8-3 record with ACC Championship Game dreams.
Virginia fans hope there’s a surprise in the works before they turn their attention fully to the Emerald Coast Classic and basketball season beyond after Saturday’s noon kickoff.
Virginia can win if … it wins the turnover battle AND takes advantage of it. Both teams have had some turnover issues this season with the Hokies entering the game 88th nationally in turnover margin (17 gained, 20 lost) and the Hoos tied for 113th (15 gained, 23 lost). Of course, even if UVA can get VT to give the ball up, it must take advantage of it. After forcing what was essentially a turnover with a stop on fourth down inside of Georgia Tech’s 30-yard line last week, Virginia didn’t score. Opponents, meanwhile, have averaged 11.3 points off of turnovers the last three weeks vs. the Hoos. Considering that Bud Foster’s defense seemingly always causes those types of headaches for UVA, it’s a key again this week.
Virginia can lose if … the offensive line can’t match Virginia Tech up front. Since the Pittsburgh game, opponents have gotten more brave with risks by blitzing and leaving the corners in man-to-man coverage. UVA has had few answers to that on a consistent basis. That’s the VT plan a lot of times against most people anyway so the line will have to deal with it this week again. Plus, the best way to attack the Hokies is up the middle with the running game (see Georgia Tech) but you can’t do that if the O-Line can’t create some running room. UVA is without Albert Reid this week so that’s a piece of that puzzle too.
And the winner is …
Sabre Editor Kris Wright: I have a general rule for this game over the last few years in the picks. Until the Hoos win, I’m not picking them. That thought was only reinforced this week when multiple UVA players provided quotes along the lines of ‘it’s just another game’ and ‘we want to win every game we play’ to the media. I get press speak and avoiding so-called bulletin board material, but it always seems like this game brings out a lot of intensity from the Hokies that the Cavaliers haven’t consistently matched. VIRGINIA TECH 34, VIRGINIA 24. Season to date: 6-5.
Sabre Associate Editor Chris Horne: Virginia has the desire to beat Virginia Tech. Unfortunately for the Hoos, I just don’t see the 12-game losing streak at the hands of the Hokies ending this week. The Cavaliers changed quarterbacks against Georgia Tech and played well for over a half. However, in what has been a theme the past two months, turnovers and defensive breakdowns cost the Hoos against the Yellow Jackets. Virginia Tech has shown it can have its bad games, but overall I think Tech’s now potent offense and its usual opportunistic defense will be too much for the Cavaliers. VIRGINIA TECH 38, VIRGINIA 14. Season to date: 7-4.
Sabre Analyst Greg Waters: So I baked the turkey early so I could do the wishbone pull game with my son. So what is my wish if I win? That Bud Foster would take the week off and not coach this weekend. He’s had Al Groh’s number and Mike London’s too. Actually, I think Bud needs a head coaching gig. So, how did I plan to win the pull? From all I’ve read there is no single formula for winning the wishbone game other than strength, skill, and quite a bit of sheer luck. Sheer luck? That’s what I’m banking on with both turkeys. Just as the Hoos finally broke the road losing streak earlier this season, they break the Tech losing streak in Blacksburg this weekend. VIRGINIA 23, VIRGINIA TECH 20. Season to date: 4-7.
Sabre Analyst Ahmad Hawkins (listen to The Ball Hawk Show podcast here): I got 1998 problems and the Hokies aren’t one! VIRGINIA 36, VIRGINIA TECH 32. Season to date: 4-7.
Sabre meteorologist BadgerHoo: Breezy and chilly. Highs are in the upper 40s during the game. Heavy coats and gloves are a good idea. As for the game? A struggle to end a struggle of a season. VIRGINIA TECH 34, VIRGINIA 13. Season to date: 6-5.
What about you? Who wins?