Virginia Tech tries for its 14th consecutive victory over Virginia when it visits the Cavaliers on Friday, but the No. 25 Hokies should find the going much tougher than they did in last season’s 52-10 rout. “(They’re) a much-improved, completely different football team than we played a year ago,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente told reporters about Virginia. “You can see that across the board in how they play, the belief in what they’re doing.”
The Cavaliers have lost four of their last five games, including a 44-28 setback at No. 2 Miami last week in which the Hurricanes scored the final 30 points. The Hokies, meanwhile, needed a game-ending goal-line stand to defeat Pittsburgh 20-14 last week to a snap a two-game slide that included a 28-10 loss at Miami. The rigors of a college season are taking their toll on Virginia Tech freshman quarterback Josh Jackson, who has dealt with a smattering of injuries but told reporters, “I feel fine.’’ Jackson completed 65.6 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and three interceptions in his first six games but only 54.3 percent with four TDs and two picks in his last four contests.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Virginia Tech -7
ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (8-3, 4-3 ACC): Senior wide receiver Cam Phillips (2,981 yards) is the school’s all-time leading receiver by yards, surpassing Isaiah Ford (2,967 from 2014-16) after recording eight receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown last week. Junior running back Travon McMillian (team-high 434 yards, two TDs) carried only once last week before leaving with a leg injury, with Fuente telling reporters that “he didn’t want to push it.’’ Junior linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (team bests of 93 tackles, 49 solo) and senior linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka (second with 82, 40) have 3.5 sacks apiece, and sophomore defensive end Trevon Hill (4.5 sacks) also contributes heavily to a defense that is No. 6 nationally in fewest points allowed at 14.6.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (6-5, 3-4): Senior quarterback Kurt Benkert (25 touchdowns, eight interceptions) needs 101 yards to set the school record for passing yards in a season (2,976) set by Matt Schaub in 2002. Benkert’s favorite targets are junior running back Olamide Zaccheaus (794 yards, five TDs), and senior wide receivers Doni Dowling (614, five) and Andre Levrone (603, seven), who are the first trio of Cavaliers to record 600 or more yards apiece in a season. Senior linebacker Micah Kiser (115) and senior safety Quin Blanding (104) are the only teammates from a Power 5 conference team to each have 100 or more tackles, with Blanding’s 462 career tackles the most in school history and No. 1 among active FBS players.
1. Virginia Tech is headed for its 25th consecutive bowl game while Virginia is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2011.
2. Virginia junior RB Jordan Ellis paces the ground attack with 790 yards and six touchdowns but has averaged 49.2 yards over the last five games and scored only one TD in his past seven contests.
3. Virginia Tech leads the series 56-37-5 and has won 17 of the last 18 meetings.
PREDICTION: Virginia 27, Virginia Tech 24