To create that Nov. 26 showdown in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers (7-3, 4-2 ACC) must win at Florida State on Saturday, or, failing that, have the Hokies (9-1, 5-1) lose Thursday to visiting North Carolina.
The Cavaliers are 0-8 in Tallahassee, and the punishing ground attack that's fueled their current three-game winning streak is unlikely to dent the Seminoles. Florida State (7-3, 5-2) is allowing a meager 2.4 yards per rush, second nationally to Alabama's 1.8.
"They don't do a whole lot of blitzing," Virginia coach Mike London said Monday at his weekly gabfest. "They say, 'Here we are, we're attacking you, now block us.' They have a lot of speed and athleticism; they just play sound, fundamental defense. You see why they're number one in the ACC, (fifth) overall in the country, in total defense."
But the Cavaliers are 2-1 this season as pups, upsetting Georgia Tech at home and Miami on the road, and falling at North Carolina. Plus, they are capable of throwing the ball, witness Michael Rocco's 300-yard passing games against Idaho and Maryland — granted, both defensively challenged.
Beating No. 23 Florida State would propel Virginia into the top 25, assure the Cavaliers a winning conference record for the first time since 2007 and stamp London as an ACC coach of the year candidate.
With accomplished seniors such as Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, Jaymes Brooks, Blake DeChristopher, Barquell Rivers and Eddie Whitley playing their final home game, ninth-ranked Virginia Tech should not lose to an opponent fresh off its first shutout loss in five years, 13-0 to North Carolina State.
The Hokies' victory at Georgia Tech on Thursday was their most impressive to date as tailback David Wilson extended the nation's longest streak of 100-yard rushing games to seven. Less than 24 hours later, Virginia Tech began pushing Wilson for national honors, and deservedly so — he's third nationally at 136 yards per game and, along with Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, a legitimate ACC player of the year contender.
But the Tar Heels (6-4, 2-4) do have the ACC's most efficient passer in Bryn Renner, whose father, Bill, was a punter for the Hokies from 1979-82, and a 1,000-yard rusher in freshman Giovani Bernard. Oh, and two years ago North Carolina won at No. 14 Virginia Tech on a Thursday, snapping a 21-game road losing streak against ranked opponents that dated to 1996.
If the Hokies stumble and/or the Cavaliers win, they will play for the Coastal Division title, as they did in 2007 at Scott Stadium. Tech was ranked eighth, Virginia 16th, and the Hokies prevailed 33-21 with freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor scoring the decisive touchdown on a 5-yard, fourth-quarter run.
Naturally, Virginia Tech faithful would prefer to clinch the division this week and play with house money next. Needless to say, Virginia craves the chance to not only unseat the Hokies atop the Coastal but also play Clemson for the program's first ACC championship since 1995.
Imagine next week if that's how the stakes unfold. Serious Turkey Day tension for families with Tech and Virginia ties. Twitter trash talk among fans and perhaps players.
Even ticket scalping, as fruitless a gig in Charlottesville recently as selling Hokie Stone, might prove lucrative.
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP