Today, the Virginia Tech Hokies won the ACC Coastal thanks to North Carolina losing to N.C. State, but there is still plenty at stake for the Hokies as they look to extend their win streak to 13 against a 2-9 Virginia team desperate to pull off a big upset to have something that they can take away from this season.
While the Hokies are heavy favorites in this game in what is a lopsided matchup on paper, plenty of rivalry games that aren’t close on paper seem to find a way to end up being close so with that said, here are our keys to the game.
Protect the Football
Virginia doesn’t have a lot of experience in the secondary but they have some talent led by star safety Quin Blanding, who has a future on Sundays, and cornerback Juan Thornhill with Virginia having a solid 9 interceptions plus 10 forced fumbles. For Virginia Tech, turnovers has been a big factor in all of their losses this season with turnovers taking away momentum against Tennessee, Syracuse, and Georgia Tech.
For the Hokies, it will be of the upmost importance to protect the football in this game and Jerod Evans has done a fairly good job of that outside of the Georgia Tech with only 5 interceptions this season though Evans’s turnovers have came at some bad times including an interception against a Georgia Tech early in the second half when the Hokies had all the momentum.
Virginia Tech has also had a few fumbles and will likely be working a lot to make sure guys like Evans and Travon McMillian don’t make the same mistakes again. McMillian seemed to go in the dog house after having an early fumble and another fumble will cause him to end up in the dog house again this week.
If the Hokies can avoid having a turnover issue, they should be able to prevent this game from being more competitive than it should be.
Contain Taquan Mizzell
Virginia doesn’t have a lot of talent on their offense but they do have a dangerous playmaker in Taquan Mizzell who will be critical to their offensive success against the Hokies. Mizzell is Virginia’s leading rusher with career highs in rushing yards (827 yards) and yards per carry (5 yards per carry) along with leading Virginia in receptions with 51.
Mizzell is critical to Virginia’s offense and has continued to got more and more touches throughout the season as he received three of his highest four carry totals in the past four games. Mizzell is critical to Virginia’s offense as someone who has the speed to break a big play if a defense makes a mistake.
Mizzell has also been the checkdown for the UVA offense as shown by his high number of receptions while also averaging a low 8 yards per reception. Mizzell is a big part of the Virginia and it will be up to Mook Reynolds and Terrell Edmunds to lead the way in watching Mizzell and trying to limit Mizzell’s impact on this game while preventing him from being a checkdown.
If the Hokies can keep Mizzell from being much of a factor, Virginia likely doesn’t have much of a chance in this game or even keeping it competitive.
Don’t Play Down To UVA’s Level
Virginia Tech has had an issue in the past at seeming to play down to some opponents’ level and can’t afford to do that this week against a Virginia team that is desperate to get a big win. The Hokies have seemed to do that a couple times in not showing up at Syracuse while also not playing well against Georgia Tech while exposing talent gaps earlier in the season against Boston College and East Carolina.
Virginia will absolutely realize that they are playing a very talented Virginia Tech team that is at its best in years while UVA players will also be desperate to be the team that ends the Hokies 12-game winning streak against the Cavaliers.
For the Hokies, it shouldn’t be hard to get motivated for this game and while the Coastal has already been clinched, it’s important for the Hokies to still come out with intensity not only to keep the Commonwealth Cup but also to recognize that a win should send them back into the top 25 ahead of next week’s showdown and improve their chances of being in a premier ACC bowl game.
If the Hokies can show up as they did against ECU and Boston College, Virginia Tech will have one of their biggest blowouts over the past 13 years of this rivalry.