UVa's success adds to rivalry game

Despite Virginia’s lack of success in recent years, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said his players have never overlooked or underestimated their in-state rivals.

Maybe that’s why the Hokies have won 11 of the past 12 games heading into Saturday, including the past seven.

“I think our players have always had a respect for Virginia,” Beamer said. “It’s never been any other way. Certainly when you look at it, it means who wins the Coastal and gets a chance to play in the ACC championship, so I think they understand how important it is.”

Finally important.

Last year the Hoos were 4-7 entering this game. In 2009, they were 3-8. And in 2008, they were 5-6. Virginia hasn’t had a winning record heading into the Commonwealth Cup game since 2007, when it had won nine of the previous 10 games and the Coastal Division title was on the line in Charlottesville. Virginia Tech won that year, 33-21. Once again, Virginia has a chance to put a halt to the Hokies’ dominance in the division.

The Cavaliers are ranked No. 24 in the top 25, they have won their past four games, and are coming off the program’s first-ever win in Tallahassee against then-ranked No. 25 FSU. This is not the Virginia that Virginia Tech is used to seeing, but it definitely adds interest and intrigue to the final game of the regular season. Reserved seat tickets and general admission tickets are already sold out.

Virginia’s surprise contention this year also adds a spark between two programs that recruit against each other on a consistent basis. Both programs currently have two of the top 25 recruiting classes in the country, as Virginia Tech is No. 22, and UVa is right on its heels at No. 23 in ESPN.com’s latest ranking.

What coach Mike London has done off the field has been as integral to the program’s success as what he has done on it. The Cavaliers have been dependent upon young players this year, and a win over the Hokies could make an impression on some undecided recruits. Virginia Tech, though, is ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS standings and is still the team to beat. The Hokies are looking for their fifth straight Coastal Division title, and are trying to win 11 games during the regular season for just the second time in school history.

Virginia’s goals have been a little more modest. Just getting to a bowl game this year was an accomplishment for a team that was picked by the media to finish fifth in the division. Now the Hoos are in contention to win their first ACC title since 1995.

“I think it’s good for the state of Virginia, for both programs here in the state to be doing well,” Beamer said. “We’ll continue to do the things we do. We’ve been doing them this way for a long time and have been able to recruit well for a long time. We’re just going to continue to do the things we’ve done for a lot of years.”

Whether or not that includes beating Virginia remains to be seen.