Virginia Tech and Virginia wrap up their respective regular seasons on Friday, November 24, 2017 in a post-Thanksgiving rivalry game in Charlottesville, Va.
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While both teams have clinched a spot in a bowl, Virginia Tech finds itself ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25 at No. 24. While a pair of losses earlier in November saw the Hokies slip out of the rankings, they can push for a higher-tier bowl with a win over the Cavaliers.
The Hokies are being favored in this game, but they have hit a little of a slump. After beginning the season 7-1, Justin Fuente’s team dropped games at Miami and Georgia Tech to start November off on a 2-game losing streak. They needed a goal line stand against Pitt on Saturday to hold on for a 20-14 victory.
Josh Jackson saw his Virginia Tech career get off to a good start, but the redshirt freshman quarterback has not been as sharp as he was to start the year. He has 2600 yards, 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions entering Friday’s game against the Cavaliers, but has thrown for just 768 yards and 2 touchdowns in his last four games. For comparison, he threw 3 touchdowns in a win against North Carolina on October 21.
All eyes will be on Hokies wide receiver Cam Phillips as his excellent career is winding down. The senior from Maryland has made 68 catches for 918 yards and 7 touchdowns as he has featured as Jackson’s primary weapon in the receiving game. True freshman Sean Savoy (39 catches, 454 yards, 4 touchdowns) has proven to be an efficient secondary option and will be set up for a larger role as a sophomore in 2018.
The Hokies’ main objective will be to stop a talented offensive weapon in Kurt Benkert. The senior quarterback from Florida was 28-for-37 for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns in the Cavaliers’ loss to Miami, a game during which they held a 28-14 third-quarter lead. Benkert has tossed 25 touchdowns to just 8 interceptions, throwing a pick in his last five games, and will be looking to go out on a high note in the final home game of his career.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers will look to end a nearly decade-and-a-half long run of futility against their in-state rival. Virginia has lost the last 13 matchups between the two teams, dating back to 2004.
The Hokies enter Friday’s contest having allowed only 128.4 yards on the ground, the 24th-best mark in the country. Statistically, that means that Bronco Mendenhall’s offense, which ranks 12th from the bottom in FBS with 107.4 rushing yards per game (despite running it an average of 31 times a game), will need to lean on Benkert heavily. If Virginia Tech is able to contain Benkert, it should depart Charlottesville with a win.
Virginia Tech has pulled away in the all-time series thanks to its 13-game winning streak, now holding a 56-37-5 mark.