2008 Keys to the Game, Matchups to Watch and Game Prediction: Virginia

Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia meet for the 90th time in a
game with much more than the Commonwealth Cup on the line. The Hokies need to
beat UVA to win the Coastal Division and travel to Tampa next week to face
either Boston College or Florida State for the ACC Championship. The Wahoos need
to win to become bowl eligible, as well as spoil VT’s season. A great deal of
pride within the Commonwealth is at stake, so what should we expect from these
up-and-down teams?

The Virginia Tech-Virginia series has a history of big plays in all phases of
the game, and this contest will likely be decided by a few critical plays. Both
teams have struggled with turnovers at times, so any advantage on giveaways
would be huge. Uncharacteristically, the Hokies committed five turnovers on the
first seven series last week against Duke, and UVA quarterback Marc Verica (#6,
6-1.5 206 4.79, r-So.) has thrown three interceptions in each of the last two
key losses against Wake Forest and Clemson. Both coaching staffs realize the
importance of big plays in determining the outcome of a game, so do not expect a
lot of unnecessary chances to be taken. However, both coaches will likely put a
few old tricks in the game plan, especially with the two offenses struggling so

With two defensive-oriented teams, the battle for field position will
obviously be important. Special teams always seem to play a major role in this
game and both teams have been inconsistent in this area. Virginia Tech would
appear to have a slight advantage in the kicking game, primarily due to the
consistency of Dustin Keys over UVA’s inconsistent field goal kicking. The
Wahoos tried All-America soccer player Yannick Reyering (#10, 6-5 205, Sr.), who
had never kicked a football prior to this year, but he has been replaced by
freshman Robert Randolph (#30, 5-10 160), at least for shorter kicks.

The Cavaliers also have a true freshman punter in Jimmy Howell (#8, 6-6 238),
which would appear to give the Hokies an advantage, especially in Lane Stadium.
However, veteran Brent Bowden has been inconsistent this year, and Tech’s punt
coverage has been a problem. Both teams are capable of blocking punts, and both
units will surely be working overtime to come up with a scheme to get to the
punter. The Hokies would appear to be more explosive in the return game with
Macho Harris, and that may be a big factor in this game. However, the advantage
for the Hokies on special teams this year would not appear to be as great as
previous years.