[The following post was published at HokieHaven.com on November 23, 2007.]
This is it: Rivalry Week. It started last weekend with Ohio State and Michigan squaring off in Ann Arbor, continues through Thanksgiving, and culminates on Saturday. Arkansas at LSU, Texas at Texas A&M, Georgia at Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State at Oklahoma, and Florida State at Florida are just a handful of familiar long-time foes battling it out on the gridiron this weekend for bragging rights. Most of those don’t mean very much on the national scene, but there are a few others that do. How about Missouri and Kansas facing off for a spot in the Big 12 Championship Game and a chance to play for the National Championship? The stakes can not be much higher than that game. Of course, our Virginia Tech Hokies play a fairly high-stakes game this Saturday at Virginia. The winner advances to the ACC Championship Game and the loser does nothing but wait until the bowl invitations are announced.
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is past. In many ways it seems like yesterday that I made my first road trip of the football season for the opening game versus East Carolina. Now the holiday season is staring me down. Before I know it, Christmas 2007 will be a memory, the 2007 college football season will be in the books, and we’ll be in the middle of basketball season. Where has the season gone? It truly has been a roller coaster ride that has brought us to November and the best football we’ve seen the Hokies play this season. Now, with the regular season all but in the books, and a trip to Jacksonville on the line, Virginia Tech takes on Virginia.
I’ve spent a little too much time observing various message boards this week, and it’s quite easy to let yourself get aggravated when visiting the other teams’ boards. With both teams playing well, and so much on the line, the fans are a little extra pumped for this one, and online forums allow people to take on personality traits they wouldn’t otherwise have. Simply put, internet message boards can sometimes bring out the worst in people. Before it sounds like I’m getting soap-boxy, I’ll stop, because it is not my intention to rant about evil messages boards and the internet. I bring that up because maybe it explains why so many (on both sides) sound cocky about Saturday’s game. There are some Hokies and Hoos alike who exude overconfidence that I just can’t get into. Rivalry games can change how teams play, so I’m really not sure what to expect this Saturday.
That said, I do admit that both sides have reasons to be confident. Both played some of their best football in their last games, both are 9-2 overall, both are ranked in the polls fairly high, and both defenses are playing at a high level. If I were a Virginia fan, I’d be confident because my team has found ways to win. We Hokies can rail on the Hoos all we want about their soft schedule and poor offensive numbers, but at the end of the day Virginia has found ways to win a number of very close games. Winning brings a team together and instills confidence despite shortcomings. Like or it not, Virginia has won just as many games as the Hokies, and the Cavaliers finally seemed to break loose in their last game when they pasted Miami 48-0.
As a Virginia Tech fan, I’m confident in the Hokies because they are not the same team that I watched get spanked by LSU in the second weekend of the season. They are healthy, the offense is clicking, and they are putting lots of points on the board. The Hokies have won five of their last six games in convincing fashion. Gone are the 17-7 and 17-10 wins, now we have seen 27-3, 40-21, and 44-14. We have also seen the Hokies respond to adversity on the field. Both Miami and Florida State crawled back in the game in the third quarters, but Tech shut them down in the fourth. The Hokies will not be scared if this game is close in the third quarter.
If you ask me, Virginia Tech is a better team on paper. I think any reasonable college football fan would agree with me on that. The Hokies have played more quality opponents, and they have better numbers overall. However, I won’t be calling this an easy win for Tech, and I expect the Cavs to give us their best shot on Saturday.
- If you thought our rivalry was intense, or if you thought the Ohio State vs. Michigan rivalry was intense, think again. The Wall Street Journal reported on the bitter rivalry between Kansas and Missouri. Long story short: that rivalry goes back to the Civil War days where towns in each state were pillaged by raiders from the other. After reading the article, the term “Jayhawk” doesn’t seem so cuddly anymore.
- With reports of the BCS commissioners possibly expanding the “at large” pool from the top 14 to the top 18, Tech’s chances of an at-large BCS in the event of a loss in the ACC Championship Game may greatly improve. Heck, the Hokies might stay in the top 18 and receive an at-large bid should they lose to Virginia. Each team’s bowl situation is very much a subplot of Saturday’s game.
- After the Hokies started sluggishly, the quarterback position was debated relentlessly, and folks thought whoever was under center might be a liability. Looking back on the season, nothing has been further from the truth. Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor have thrown only four interceptions so far this season. Glennon threw one pick against East Carolina and one at LSU. Taylor threw one against North Carolina and one against Florida State. On the flip side of the ball, Jameel Sewell has thrown eight interceptions this year.
- I hate to admit it, but I just can’t get into the rivalry like some folks on the message boards. While I want to see Tech beat Virginia every time they play each other in every sport, I just don’t feel the amount of hate that bitter rivals are supposed to feel. Life is too short to let one football game get me bent out of shape. Maybe my lack of animosity towards Virginia is because one of my sisters is a Virginia alum, and she does not fit the stereotype that we have of Virginia folks. Perhaps it’s the outpouring of support we received from UVA in the aftermath of April 16th. Heck, maybe I have gotten soft because I moved to Charlottesville last year and the Wahoos have rubbed off on me. If you see me drinking a Zima at a tailgate this weekend, feel free to punch me in the neck.