FACTS & STATS: Site: Scott Stadium (61,500) -- Charlottesville, Virginia. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Virginia Tech 4-2, Virginia 2-5. Away Record: Virginia Tech 3-1, Virginia 0-4. Neutral Record: Virginia Tech 0-1, Virginia 0-0. Conference Record: Virginia Tech 4-3, Virginia 0-7. Series Record: Virginia Tech leads, 52-37-5.
GAME NOTES: An intrastate battle is on tap at Scott Stadium this weekend as the Virginia Tech Hokies square off with the Virginia Cavaliers in an ACC contest with the Commonwealth Cup on the line.
Virginia Tech has been trending in the wrong direction of late with losses in three of its last four contests. The most recent loss was a 27-24 overtime heartbreaker against Maryland that ended when C.J. Brown scored on a three- yard touchdown run for the Terps in the extra session. The recent losses have made Virginia Tech's footing for its bowl destination unsure as the Hokies are 7-4 overall, while a middling 4-3 against the rest of the ACC.
The hopes of a trip to a bowl game for Virginia were dashed long ago as the Cavaliers enter play on Saturday sporting just a 2-9 overall mark, including a 0-7 record in conference action. In fact the Cavaliers haven't won a game since the end of September as the last eight contests have all ended with losses. Virginia has now failed to qualify for a bowl in five of the last six seasons.
The Hokies have long dominated the series with the Cavaliers, but they have been especially commanding of late with 13 victories in the last 14 meetings. Last year Virginia, which hasn't had a win since 2003, suffered a 17-14 letdown in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech holds an overall lead in the all-time series of 52-37-5.
Even with a winning record, Virginia Tech has been one of the least effective offensive teams in the ACC. The Hokies are 12th in the league in total offense (358.6 ypg), while averaging just 5.1 yards per play. The Hokies don't really sustain drives well, converting on just 34 percent of their third down attempts.
It seems that Logan Thomas may never live up to his immense potential. Thomas has certainly been a solid quarterback for the Hokies, but he has never been the All-ACC type of player he was once projected to be. Thomas has thrown for 2,632 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, but he has completed less than 60 percent of his pass attempts and been intercepted 12 times. Against Maryland, Thomas avoided any interceptions but he was sacked a season-high six times, while finishing with 210 yards and two scores through the air.
All the sacks negated any yards Thomas was able to pick up on the ground last week, which is unfortunate as his ability to make plays with his legs is something that sets him apart. Thomas has 321 yard and four scores on the ground. Trey Edmunds (582 yards, 10 TDs) is relied on as the starting running back and lead rusher, though he has only a single 100-yard showing this season.
A trio of receivers have reached the 500-yard mark for the Hokies this season. Willie Bryn (46 receptions, 598 yards, two TDs) is the only one to have done so with more than 40 receptions. Bryn finished with 69 yards on six receptions and a touchdown against Maryland. Joshua Stanford (36 receptions, 591 yards, TD) and Demitri Knowles (39 receptions, 518 yards, three TDs) are also important targets, while D.J. Coles (39 receptions, 330 yards, six TDs) has had a real nose for the end zone.
What has been keeping Virginia Tech competitive each week is its always strong defense. Frank Beamer has another stingy unit this year, as the Hokies are surrendering only 18.5 points and 268.2 yards per game. The Hokies are the top team in the ACC in yards allowed, better than even No. 2 Florida State. Jack Tyler (89 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks) is the leading tackler and one of six players with at least four sacks.
Virginia leads the ACC in offensive plays (928) but is just ninth in the league in total offense (376 ypg). There in lies the problem.
David Watford's inconsistent play under center has opened a door for Greyson Lambert in recent weeks. Watford, who has thrown for 2,080 yards and eight touchdowns, has started all 11 games for Virginia but has been picked off 15 times. Lambert saw his most extended minutes last week as he completed 13- of-19 passes for 134 yards against Miami-Florida. Watford threw for less than 200 yards with a completion percentage below 50 percent for the third-straight game in the loss.
Kevin Parks (926 yards, 11 TDs) provides the offense with a dynamic playmaker in the backfield. Parks can run the ball as well as make plays in the passing game, with 35 receptions for 311 yards and a touchdown this season. Parks rushed for 130 yards and a score against Miami for his fifth 100-yard effort of the season.
Jake McGee (39 receptions, 330 yards, two TDs), Darius Jennings (36 receptions, 319 yards, three TDs) and Tim Smith (26 receptions, 389 yards, TD) makeup the most productive members of the receiving corps.
While the offense has struggled to find its footing, the defense has struggled in general for Virginia. The Cavaliers are allowing 34.8 points per game and more than 400 yards of total offense on average each week. Anthony Harris (75 tackles, eight INTs) has provided a bright spot as the national leader in interceptions.
Still trying to determine who the best quarterback on your roster is coming into the season finale is not a recipe for success, especially against a punishing defense like Virginia Tech. The Hokies should end the regular season with a win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 32, Virginia 17
Saturday, November 30, 3:30 p.m. (et)