Virginia-Virginia Tech Preview
After opening the season 0-2 for the first time in 15 years, Virginia Tech has a chance to ride its longest winning streak in 11 seasons into the ACC title game.
The 13th-ranked Hokies will try for 10 straight wins for the first time since 1999 when they take on last-place Virginia on Saturday.
Virginia Tech (9-2, 7-0) was hoping to contend for a national title when the season began, but a loss to Boise State in its opener and stunning defeat to FCS-opponent James Madison dropped the Hokies out of the top 25 as they got off to their worst start since 1995.
Like that season, when Virginia Tech regrouped to finish 9-2 and earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl, the Hokies have made an equally impressive turnaround this year. They clinched the ACC's Coastal Division with a 31-17 victory over Miami last Saturday.
"You come back from two, I say devastating, losses within a week ... I don't think you come back from that unless you have really good people on your football team and really good people leading your football team," coach Frank Beamer said. "I think that's very obvious and very evident. They've hung in there and kept battling and somehow we found a way to win together."
Ryan Williams ran for a season-high 142 yards and two touchdowns in his fourth game back from a torn hamstring suffered Sept. 18. Williams led the ACC with 127.3 rushing yards per game in 2009 and showed flashes of that talent last weekend with an 84-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
"It just felt good to be out there playing again and not worried about what's going on," Williams said. "I still wrap it, just in case. But you know, I haven't felt it. And it feels good."
Williams had one of his best career games against Virginia last season, rushing for a career-high 183 yards while tying his high with four touchdowns in a 42-13 win.
Williams' improved health is a good sign for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are looking to be the conference's champ to go undefeated in ACC play since Florida State in 2000. They'll face either the Seminoles or North Carolina State in the conference title game in Charlotte on Dec. 4 for a BCS bowl berth.
"I think it's a relief knowing we're going to go to Charlotte and bring a bunch of people to Charlotte and see if we can't sell that thing out like the ACC championship game should be sold-out," Beamer said. "But I think you can't be content. I think you when you start feeling satisfied, I think you're probably in trouble, and we've got a big, big game next week.
"To me, you don't dare let momentum get away from you."
However, it's difficult to imagine Virginia Tech suffering a letdown against Virginia (4-7, 1-6). The Hokies have won six straight in the series, outscoring the Cavaliers 185-72. They have not won 10 straight since going 11-0 in the regular season in 1999.
Virginia has lost three straight, including a 17-13 defeat at Boston College last Saturday. The Eagles scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter while Marc Verica passed for 284 yards, but was intercepted at the Eagles 49-yard line in the fourth quarter.
"The guy has played in a lot of games," coach Mike London said of Verica, who has 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. "He made an ill-advised throw for an interception ... It's disappointing, but you have to look up, look forward and get ready for our final game."
London has endured a difficult first season for Virginia after taking over for the fired Al Groh, who went 3-9 in 2009. The Cavaliers rank 107th in the FBS against the run, giving up 203.9 yards per game, and are 0-4 on the road. Three of those losses have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Virginia's last win over Virginia Tech was a 35-21 victory in 2003.