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If you're reading this preview, the Virginia-Virginia Tech rivalry needs no introduction. The football programs may respect each other at the coach and administrative levels. But the players certainly do not like one another. And the fans? They can barely contain their disdain for the opposing side.

The athletic programs may compete hard in other sports. But in football, it's just different.

The passion and rooting interests are generational. Rarely do people cross lines within their families (although I did much to my father's parents' dismay).

You watch each other's games hoping to see your rival lose. And along the way, you learn the other team. You know their strengths and weaknesses. You know their personnel. You know what they're trying to do on offense and defense. That familiarity only breeds further contempt.

And this season, there's so much at stake. Senior Day. The streak. The Commonwealth Cup. Commonwealth Clash points. The ACC Coastal crown. A possible berth in the Orange Bowl to the winner. And it's Hokie Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster's last season. 

The confluence of factors makes this the most consequential game in the rivalry in quite some time.

Virginia (8-3, 5-2) and Virginia Tech (8-3, 5-2) kick off at noon on ABC from Scott Stadium.

Game Uniform

The Hoos will be in all blue for this one. 

Some people call these the blueberry set. I like to call them the night stalkers because it sounds tougher. And the Hoos do look pretty tough in these.

But if it's a noon game, I guess night stalkers are out the door. So, blueberry it is? I still think we need a better name.

Fifteen in a row is all you need to know. Everyone is tired of hearing about it. 

After last season's overtime loss at Lane Stadium, I'm convinced a supernatural power is at work. Al Groh, who owns the last victory for UVA in the series (2003), did something to anger the football gods while coaching the Hoos. This is the penance. You can't convince me otherwise.

I'd be down with an exorcism or any other suggestion to cleanse the McCue Center of this demon.

I'm only being half facetious. No, really.

Everything is important this week. No detail is too fine or too small. I give the program credit for embracing the challenge and rivalry head on under this coaching staff. Coming from the Holy War rivalry, they understand the place they occupy in college football. In order to gain credibility within the state, they know that they have to win this game eventually. The sooner, the better!

Here's where I'll have my focus.

The Mental Approach

Embracing the rivalry and taking ownership of the streak naturally adds a level of pressure for everyone on the UVA sideline. It's a fact. It's also not an issue as long as it's mitigated. It's actually a healthy element during preparation for this game going all the way back to winter workouts at the conclusion of last season. The pressure is motivating.

Once the game kicks off, however, if it persists it can then become problematic. We've seen it all too often on the Wahoo sideline. The pressure causes doubt, hesitancy, tentativeness.

Instead, the Hoos must play bold and inspired. They must walk right up to the edge without crossing it. Channel the aggression in the correct direction. We've seen UVA players make costly, bone headed penalties in this rivalry because their aggression was undisciplined.

This will be a difficult game to win. But the Hoos have trained for moments like this all offseason. The program prides itself on doing hard things together. They've accomplished many difficult things both on and off the field. Use that. Use the bonds and trust created in those moments to be confident.

It's the only way. The Hokies will be both confident and mentally strong for all four quarters.

Special Teams

There was a time when the special teams matchup was a tremendous mismatch in Virginia Tech's favor. Those times have changed.

The 2019 UVA special teams are some of the best in program history.

As of November 24, CFB Focus (@cffmwachsman) showed that ESPN gave the Hoos high marks in their special teams efficiency rankings.

Here's what we know will happen during Friday's game.

On offense, the Hokies will use their excellent receiving corps to challenge UVA's depleted secondary. They're going to move quarterback Hendon Hooker around to try to further disrupt UVA's pass coverage as inexperienced defensive backs must decide between maintaining coverage or providing run support for a mobile QB.

On defense, the Hokies are going to be aggressive and fill the box with defenders. They're going to challenge Bryce Perkins and company to beat them over the top of the defense. Anything short or going from side to side will be met with a swarm of tacklers.

The Hoos actually did a really nice job meeting that challenge in the second half of last year's game. They erased at 14-0 halftime deficit while taking a 28-24 lead late in the 4th quarter before putting the offense back in its shell. Multiple chances to put the game away were then squandered before regulation ended 31-31.

This group of Hoos know they can defeat the Hokie defense. They have the blueprint and they've executed it successfully over nearly two quarters. But can they take that next step?

Prior to last season, I told myself that I was done picking UVA to win this game until they finally did it. 

Then I got caught up in the hype and picked UVA to win despite my vow. 

Before picking this game, I polled the other HoosPlace writers to get their pick for the game. From those that made a pick, here's how it shook out.

WriterPickScore
Kendall (Head)VT31-28
Kendall (Heart)UVA48-0
MaizeVT35-21
HooAmpVT34-20
Karl HessVT17-13

There you have it. It's the consensus of the HoosPlace writers that the streak will continue.

 

 

 

 

This article contains the tags:

Football, 2019, Virginia Tech