In 2007, the No. 8 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies walked into Scott Stadium to face the No. 16 Cavaliers for the right to play in the ACC Championship Game.
Tech won that game 33-21, but the reason that’s significant is that it was the last time the Commonwealth Cup had its stakes elevated because of championship implications. It was also the last time both schools were ranked in the AP Poll.
Since then, Tech has run over their in-state rivals and has turned a once-great rivalry into yearly blowout.
However, this season brings a renewal to that rivalry, as the Hokies and Cavaliers will once again play for the Coastal Division title, and the right to play in the ACC Championship Game.
“It’s not just another ball game,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “You worked really hard to where you’re playing for the Coastal Championship, and in this one game, you’re playing on national television for a championship and it’s not every game that you do that.”
While being on the cusp of the Coastal Division title is nothing new for the Hokies, it is a new position for this Cavaliers unit.
Under the reign of Mike London and his staff, the Cavs sit at 8-3 and are bowl-eligible for the first time in four years.
“This is London’s second year in the program and (the players) have bought into what he wants them to do,” said Eddie Whitley, safety. “They’ve always had athletes around the skill players that can change the game.”
Virginia is coming off of a last-second victory at No. 25 Florida State, but its resume also includes victories over Miami and then-No. 12 Georgia Tech.
“I don’t think there’s any question as to how good this Virginia team is,” Beamer said. “I think they’re for real. I think they’re a very good football team that is playing with a high, high level of confidence.”
Behind the Cavs improvement has been sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco. After starting the season with seven interceptions in four games, Rocco has thrown just two in the seven games since and the result has been the Cavs going 6-1 in that span.
“He has the capabilities to get out of the pocket and keep the plays alive,” Whitley said. “He like a (Ben) Roethlisberger, or something like that — he’s not a burner, but he knows how to find time and get away from D-linemen to still look down the field instead of just tucking and running it.”
Rocco’s favorite target this season has been receiver Kris Burd, but it is running back Perry Jones that could be the x-factor in the receiving game. In addition to his 870 yards rushing this season, Perry is second on the team with 41 receptions and is tied for the most touchdown catches (3) with Tim Smith.