With their loss to Pittsburgh last weekend, Virginia no longer has Coastal Division championship aspirations, and that means their contest this Saturday against Virginia Tech will be played only for bragging rights. But in this series, ain't that enough?
For 16 of the last 17 years, it has been Virginia Tech that has been able to puff out its chest and crow about winning the Commonwealth Cup. After ending the 15-year winless drought in 2019, Virginia fell in Blacksburg once again last season, so a new Hokie winning streak stands at one.
For Virginia Tech (5-6, 3-4 ACC), a win on Saturday would make them bowl eligible, which under normal conditions may not seem like much. But this year, with J.C. Price, a Hokie through and through, taking over as interim head coach for the departed Justin Fuente, getting to a bowl — and beating Virginia (6-5, 4-3) to get there — would be a pretty big deal.
Virginia Tech at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3:45 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Virginia -7
When Virginia Tech Has the Ball
Connor Blumrick replaced Braxton Burmeister as the quarterback in the second half of the loss to Miami last week and gave the team a spark. It is unclear if the Texas A&M transfer will start against Virginia, but he will certainly get a fair share of the snaps. Blumrick is clearly more advanced as a runner, as indicated by his 132 rushing yards on 20 carries versus Miami. However, he completed 5 of 11 passes for just 39 yards.
But it's not like Virginia Tech has been a dynamic passing team with Burmeister taking snaps and Blumrick at least gives opposing defenses a little bit more to worry about from a running perspective. Combining what Blumrick can do on the ground with the emerging Malachi Thomas and veteran Raheem Blackshear creates a nice building block for Hokie offensive coordinator Brad Cornelson. Cornelson would like to find ways to get the ball in Tré Turner's hands, but at this point, the Virginia Tech strength is running the ball.
When facing Virginia, that's a good strength to have. The Cavaliers are last in the ACC, allowing 217 rushing yards per game. Last week, UVA did hold Pittsburgh to 169 yards on the ground, but Kenny Pickett threw for 340 yards. Not only is the rush defense bad, Virginia also doesn't force a lot of turnovers and doesn't create many negative plays. Nick Jackson, Joey Blount, and Noah Taylor have nice statistics, but simply put this is a bad defense.
When Virginia Has the Ball
While the UVA defense may not be good, its offense with Brennan Armstrong is spectacular. The lefty quarterback returned from his rib injury last week and picked up right where he left off, completing 36 of 49 for 487 yards and three scores against a stout Pitt defense. And once again, he got Dontayvion Wicks involved. In Armstrong's absence, Wicks was held to just two catches by Notre Dame but grabbed 10 balls for 144 yards versus Pittsburgh.
If Virginia continues its offensive success, it will most likely come through the air because the running game has been anemic. Their 27 rushing yards in the Pitt game marked the fifth time the Cavs were held under 100 yards as a team this season, with three of those games resulting in totals of 35 yards or less. They have had some games with sizeable rushing numbers, but overall this team has to expect Armstrong and the receivers to carry the load.
Which creates an interesting matchup with the Virginia Tech defense. On the season, the Hokies are second in the ACC in pass defense and for a good chunk of the year struggled against the run. But Tyler Van Dyke and Miami flipped the script last week, throwing for 357 yards and averaging only 2.6 yards per carry. One of the most intriguing individual matchups of the season will occur in this game when Wicks locks horns with Tech's star corner Jermaine Waller. Also, over the second half of the season, the Virginia Tech pass rush has disappeared. With Armstrong still probably not 100 percent, the Hokies would be well served to get some people in his face.
Despite the lack of prizes awaiting the victor, the intensity level in this game should be extremely high. The Hokies have to want Price to coach this team for one more game, and that only happens with a victory. As for Virginia, 7-5 looks a lot better than 6-6 and, of course, the recent 1-16 record against Virginia Tech adds plenty of fuel to their fire. The most important element to this game is Armstrong, and he looked like he was in very good form last week. He will again put up big numbers because that's what he does and Virginia Tech won't be able to keep up. It will be Virginia that will be riding a winning streak into next year's Commonwealth Cup as the Cavs will take care of the Hokies this Saturday.
Prediction: Virginia 38, Virginia Tech 27
Podcast: Week 13 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.