Virginia and Virginia Tech entered 2014 with different expectations. Thanks to a favorable schedule and a talented defense, the Hokies were pegged by some as the frontrunner in an unpredictable Coastal Division. The Cavaliers had low expectations and were pegged by most preseason prognosticators for the cellar in the Coastal after a 2-10 mark in 2013.
Despite the different preseason expectations, Virginia Tech and Virginia find their seasons intersecting on Friday night in Blacksburg.
After 13 weeks in the 2014 college football season, the two programs have the same record (5-6). The winner of the annual rivalry will go to a bowl. But the loser of Saturday night’s game will have plenty of questions to answer until spring practice starts.
Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is the longest-tenured coach in the FBS ranks, but the program has sputtered in recent years. The Hokies won at least 10 games in eight consecutive years but is just 20-17 over the last three seasons.
If Virginia Tech loses on Friday, the Hokies will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 1992.
There are plenty of reasons to doubt the direction of Beamer’s team, but this squad has been hit hard by injuries on defense and is dealing with youth on offense. There’s promise in 2015 – but also plenty of reasons to believe this team will struggle to reach the ACC title game. Can the offense find consistency on the offensive line and at quarterback? Is Scot Loeffler the answer as the team’s play-caller? Those are just a few of the questions Beamer will have to sort out at the end of the year.
Considering the preseason expectations, Virginia has overachieved (to a degree) with a chance to go to a bowl with a victory over Virginia Tech. But is that enough to save coach Mike London’s job? The Cavaliers started 4-2 but lost four in a row before defeating Miami on Saturday night. London is just 23-37 in five years with one bowl appearance.
Recruiting talent hasn’t been a problem for London, but Virginia won less than three ACC games in three out of four seasons from 2010-13.
If the Cavaliers get to a bowl, the conventional wisdom suggestions that would be enough for London to get another year. But what happens if Virginia falls short? Regardless of who coaches the Cavaliers in 2015, this team has plenty of talent and will be a factor in another wide-open Coastal race.
The Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry has been one-sided on the gridiron in recent series. The Hokies have won 10 in a row over the Cavaliers, and Virginia has not won in Blacksburg since 1998.
While the rivalry has been dominated by Virginia Tech, there’s plenty of optimism on the Virginia sideline this year. The Cavaliers opened as just a point or two underdog in Friday’s matchup.
As the good folks in Vegas believe, Friday night’s game is a tossup. And considering what’s at stake for both programs, it’s a tossup on what the future lies for the Hokies and Cavaliers following Friday night’s game.
Even if these two teams have a combined 12 losses, there’s still plenty at stake on Friday night: Bowl bids, coaching and direction of a program.
Which team will answer some of the questions we mentioned throughout this article and end the season on a positive note? And which team will be forced to answer questions about its long-term outlook until spring practice starts?
Virginia-Virginia Tech won’t move the needle like Auburn-Alabama, but the outcome of this rivalry matchup could have some interesting implications in the ACC and in Virginia.