For the third time, the Commonwealth Cup won't only determine bragging rights between Virginia Tech and Virginia, but it will also decide who wins the Coastal and plays in next week's ACC Championship against Clemson. Additionally, the winner of this game will certainly be ranked in next week's playoff rankings and likely in line to play in the Orange Bowl, especially if it's the Hokies given their presence in this week's CFP top 25.
While things like the Coastal title and an Orange Bowl appearance are big, there's no doubt that once that ball is kicked off, all focus will be on winning the Cup for the sake of simple in-state bragging rights. Virginia Tech knows the standard of dominance to uphold while Virginia is clearly desperate to finally break through as shown by the excessive amount of "Beat Tech" signs around their facility and other things done throughout the season.
With that said, here's our picks for the Hokies and the Hoos.
The most important Commonwealth Cup showdown since 2011 is here as the Hokies have turned their season around in an improbable way while Virginia is looking to fulfill the media's selection of them as the preseason pick to win the Coastal.
While Virginia has been relatively consistent in their level of play (and has seen some areas get worse especially their secondary due to injury), Virginia Tech has shown a dramatic improvement with their best 3 games coming over the past 3 weeks.
Virginia has the most dynamic offensive player in Bryce Perkins, but Perkins has a lack of skill position help and an offensive line that has struggled a lot. Additionally, Virginia's secondary has suffered a multitude of injuries while the Hokies' group of WRs and TEs is the best in the conference outside of Clemson. Expect the Hokies to have a big game through the air against a UVA pass defense running out of players.
Based on what we've seen as the season has gone along, it's hard to ignore the fact that Virginia Tech is the better football team. However, while Hokie fans have taken over Charlottesville in the past, UVA's strong season and aggressive approach in trying to limit the number of Tech fans who buy tickets has seemed to work and should give UVA some sort of homefield advantage.
In the end, Virginia Tech is the better football team and while UVA has as good of a chance as they have had this decade outside of last season, there still seems to be a mental block that helped get in the Hoos' way last year. The Hokies are the more complete football team and while they won't get a shutout, they'll put together another great performance to remind America that the Kings of the Commonwealth continue to reside in Blacksburg.
Pick: No. 24 Virginia Tech 28, Virginia 20
For the first time since 2011, the Commonwealth Cup has added meaning. The winner of Friday’s game will head to the ACC Championship against Clemson.
The Hokies are coming in hot off of two straight shutouts. They would love nothing more than to put together another great defensive performance in Bud Foster’s regular season finale.
UVA, on the other hand, will be looking to spoil Foster’s finale. QB Bryce Perkins is playing well, and the Hoos will need him to have a great outing.
However, the Hokies advantage comes when they have the ball. UVA’s secondary is decimated, and Tech’s receivers should have an advantage in that regard.
Overall, this should be a close game, and both teams have a lot to play for. In the end, though, I see the Hokies getting it done.
Pick: No. 24 Virginia Tech 31, Virginia 24
15 straight, that is the simplest way of defining the dominance Virginia Tech has had against Virginia.
The last time the Cavaliers won, it was 2003. For reference, my brother Robert, who is 15-years old in high school now, was not alive yet.
The Hokies are on a roll as of late, shutting out opponents in the last nine quarters, dating back to shutting out Wake Forest in the fourth quarter. They’ve won 6 of their last 7, with the lone loss coming at Notre Dame without Hendon Hooker as the starting quarterback.
Hooker is 6-0 as a starter and has completed 69/110 passes (62.7%) for 1134 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s given Tech a new life on offense.
In turn, Tech’s defense has been exceptional, allowing 0 points against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, while scoring two touchdowns the past two weeks.
Virginia has won three straight after losing to Louisville in October. The Cavaliers have suffered lots of injuries on defense though, especially in the secondary, and haven’t had a sustainable run game all season. This offense is largely built around Bryce Perkins being a one-man show given the lack of skill position help.
Virginia isn’t as good as Pitt is on defense, and the Hokies were able to score 3 touchdowns in less than ideal conditions last week. If UVA wants to win the game, Bryce Perkins will have to have his best game of the season in Scott Stadium. If he doesn’t play well, Tech’s got the much better chance to win.
My keys for the Hokies:
- Contain Perkins to force the Cavaliers to be one dimensional
- Put up points early
- Continue to play like the last few weeks - don’t turn the ball over
The Cavaliers will get on the board after the Hokies and keep it close around halftime, with Tech leading 14-7. The Hokies will takeover from there, though and ride out Bud Foster’s last win against Virginia. Perkins and the Cavaliers will give Tech fits for a half, but Tech will contain him and stop UVA's offense as the game wears on.