The battle for the Commonwealth Cup was originally slated for Sept. 19; however, COVID-19 issues at Virginia Tech forced the game to be moved to Dec. 12, and here we are.
The 102nd meeting between the Virginia Cavaliers and the Virginia Tech Hokies will occur in its usual season-ending manner, only about two weeks later than normal.
It’s tough to imagine how this game would have turned out if played in September. The Hokies (4-6) ended up beginning their season on Sept. 26 with an impressive blowout win over N.C. State.
Meanwhile, Virginia (5-4) began its season with a win over Duke but lost its next four games before an upset win over North Carolina in Charlottesville turned the season around.
Virginia Tech’s season, which began with a promising 4-1 record, has spiraled downward, and there’s a chance this is the last game for Justin Fuente as head coach. The Hokies have lost four games in a row and five of their last six.
The Wahoos have won four in a row.
When: Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Virginia
TV: ACC Network
Odds: Virginia Tech is a 2.5-point favorite, according to BetMGM
This is one of the oldest rivalries in all of college football. The two teams have met 101 times, with Virginia Tech leading the all-time series, 58-38-5.
The Hokies dominated this rivalry, winning 15 meetings in a row from 2004-2018 until the Cavaliers took down Tech 39-30 last season.
It looked UVa was going to win easily in the first half of last season’s meeting after Virginia quarterback Bryce Perkins ran all over the Hokies. However, Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker came out hot in the second half, giving the Hokies a 27-20 lead after the third quarter.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, their defense had no answer for Perkins, who led the Hoos up and down the field with ease in the fourth quarter, and Virginia Tech’s last gasp ended when Hooker was taken down in the end zone to give UVa a nine-point lead and possession of the Commonwealth Cup.
When Virginia has the ball
The Wahoos have won four in a row, thanks in large part to their offense. Sophomore quarterback Brennan Armstrong has been outstanding in recent weeks, and it is no coincidence Virginia’s season has turned around as his play has improved.
Much like Perkins, Armstrong is a dual-threat passer. The left-hander from Ohio passed for 287 yards and rushed for 130 yards in last week’s win over Boston College. Armstrong is going to be an outstanding quarterback in the ACC.
Another reason for Virginia’s success on offense is veteran offensive coordinator Robert Anae. Unlike Virginia Tech’s Brad Cornelsen. Anae is good. Even when his units operate with lesser talent, Anae finds what works best and isn’t trying to fit players into a specific scheme. He adapts.
Armstrong is UVa’s leading rusher with over 500 yards on the ground; however, junior Wayne Taulapapa is a credible ACC starting running back.
The Hoos have some weapons at wide receiver in Billy Kemp IV., Terrell Jana and Lavel Davis Jr.
The Hokies did a good job last week versus Clemson before running out of steam late in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton called a good game, but his unit got next to nothing from the offense.
When Virginia Tech has the ball
The Hokies had one of the more impressive offensive units in college football in the first half of the season. That’s changed recently with the struggles of Hooker and injuries to some of the group’s top players.
Hooker is a dynamic player who can take over a game with his legs and is a capable passer, too. Unfortunately for Hooker, the offense is highly predictable, and defenders tee off once the Hokies get behind. Hooker left last week’s game and in a scary fashion but appears good to go this week.
Hooker and Braxton Burmeister could both see time under center. Burmeister has started three games for Tech this season and looked good in last week’s loss to Clemson. Both are great runners, and Hooker is the better passer, but Burmeister can make plays through the air, too.
The Hokies need offensive linemen Christian Darrisaw and Silas Dzansi healthy this week. This is probably Darrisaw’s last game in a Virginia Tech uniform, as he should be a high pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Darrisaw has gutted through the latter part of the season, battling injury.
Running back Khalil Herbert was outstanding once again last week. Herbert was finally fully healthy again, and it showed. He is the ACC’s top running back in 2020, and Tech needs a big day from him on Saturday.
Wide receiver Tre Turner missed last week’s game. The Hokies desperately need him back in the lineup. Tre hates UVa, so he is doing everything possible to get back on the field.
Tight end James Mitchell is a key player in this game. The junior from Big Stone Gap made plays early last week, and the offense went away from him. Tech needs Mitchell involved for four quarters as he is a clear mismatch.
Virginia’s defense has struggled this season after losing so many players from a year ago. The biggest loss this year was linebacker Charles Snowden. Snowden suffered a leg injury last month that ended his season. Snowden is a fantastic player and a big loss for the Hoos.
Virginia’s biggest strength on defense is its linebackers.
No one knows whether or not there will be changes at Virginia Tech this offseason. The winds of change do appear to be blowing, but nothing is definite.
Regardless of what may or may not happen, expect a fired-up Virginia Tech squad on Saturday in Blacksburg. The entire team wants the Cup back in the New River Valley.
Expect a similar game to last year. Both teams will move the ball with ease. Tech can not afford to get away from its running game and must continue to find ways to get Raheem Blackshear involved in the passing game.
Expect to see both quarterbacks for the Hokies.
The game will be close, and there will be lots of emotions on Virginia Tech’s side. The Hokies will bounce back and end the season on a positive note.
Virginia Tech 34, Virginia 31