- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Virginia Tech has owned rival Virginia in recent years, but both programs are desperately clinging to hopes of becoming bowl eligible this year. Both have to win their final two games in order to do that -- and they're standing in each other's way. Virginia plays North Carolina on Thursday night before facing the Hokies in the regular-season finale. Virginia Tech must travel to Boston College this week before closing the season at home against their rivals.
Which one can get it done? Depends on who you ask, of course ...
Andrea Adelson: A few weeks ago, I argued that Virginia Tech had the best shot to win the Coastal.
Yeah, I lost that debate.
But this one is a slam dunk -- Virginia Tech will be going bowling. Book it, folks.
The schedule plays right into the Hokies' hands. This weekend they hit the road to take on Boston College. If this were any other team, I might be quakin' in my boots, considering the Hokies are winless away from Lane Stadium this season. In fact, the Hokies have lost seven straight away from home, dating back to last season.
The last time that happened? In the first two seasons under Frank Beamer, from 1987-88, when the Hokies lost nine straight. That streak will end Saturday against the Eagles, who are having a historically bad season of their own. Virginia Tech has won four straight in the series.
So that brings us to the season finale against Virginia, a game that could very well impact the bowl hopes of both teams.
There is no doubt the Hoos are the hotter team right now, having won two straight -- including an impressive win at NC State, and a heart-stopping win over Miami. Virginia Tech has lost three straight, and could not beat said Hurricanes on the road. But two of their other losses were to the only ranked ACC teams, Clemson and Florida State. And Virginia Tech showed determination and grit in the loss to the Noles, nearly pulling off the upset before a late rally gave Florida State the win.
We saw flashes of the ol' Bud Foster defense show up in that game, and I bet the same happens against the Hoos. Remember, this game is in Lane Stadium, where the Hokies have been a different team all year -- going 4-1.
And also remember Virginia Tech has thoroughly dominated the series against Virginia, winning 12 of the past 13 games. Virginia has not won in Blacksburg since 1998. Even last year -- when Virginia made a bowl game -- Virginia Tech blitzed 'em in a 38-0 victory. Neither team is as good as it was a year ago, but the Hokies have owned their in-state rival and they get this one at home.
That's called bowlin', y'all. For 20 straight years.
Heather Dinich: Virginia Tech has gone bowling for 19 straight seasons. The Hokies have defeated their in-state rival, Virginia, eight straight times and 12 of the past 13.
This year is different.
This year, the Hokies need to beat the Hoos just to become bowl eligible -- and that’s assuming Virginia Tech can beat Boston College this week and win its first road game since last year, when Virginia Tech beat UVa in Charlottesville, 38-0. If bowl eligibility is on the line when these two rivals meet in Blacksburg in the regular-season finale, Virginia can get it done.
That’s right -- the game is in Blacksburg. Same place the Hokies just lost to Florida State. On a Thursday night.
On Halloween, I made the mighty mistake of writing off Virginia. Said to “bury ‘em” at the bye. Whoops. Virginia went to NC State and whooped ‘em, 33-6, the following week. It further validated that effort with a 41-40 win over Miami this past weekend. Quarterback Michael Rocco played like a veteran and threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. A home win over North Carolina this Thursday night and Virginia -- a team that was riding a six-game losing streak into the bye -- would suddenly be one win away from playing in a bowl game for the second straight season under coach Mike London. You think they’re gonna let the Hokies ruin that improbable comeback?
Virginia will have learned a lesson from last year’s drubbing. The Cavaliers were anemic on offense, looked flat, and were flat-out embarrassed at home in a game which determined the Coastal Division winner. This year, much more than the division title will be at stake. These teams will be playing for pride, and trying to avoid the embarrassment of failing to reach the six win mark.
Virginia is ranked ahead of Virginia Tech this week in the ESPN.com power rankings because the Hoos are hot right now. They’ve won back-to-back games while the Hokies have lost three straight.
If both teams continue to play the way they have the past two weeks, that’s how they’ll finish in the standings, too.
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2dJared Shanker and Andrea Adelson