No ACC team is playing better than Virginia and Virginia Tech. The Hokies have won six straight games, the Cavaliers four.
No ACC coaches are game-planning better than Virginia's Mike London and Tech's Frank Beamer. London wisely scrapped the quarterback swapping that doomed the Cavaliers in a mid-October loss to North Carolina State; Beamer and his staff adjusted remarkably to a wave of defensive injuries.
No ACC running backs are more valuable than Tech's David Wilson and Virginia's Perry Jones. Wilson is the conference's leading rusher and most dynamic runner; Jones ranks among the league's most versatile players — he leads league backs in catches and yards receiving.
Add championship stakes — the winner advances to the ACC title contest — and you have the largest game ever between Virginia and Virginia Tech.
The Hokies (10-1, 6-1 ACC) and Cavaliers (8-3, 5-2) collide Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, and no matter your affiliation, both teams merit admiration.
Yes, I understand this is asking a lot. It's like expecting David Letterman and Sarah Palin to make nice.
But consider: Neither Virginia nor Virginia Tech has dominant talent, but both have fashioned memorable seasons with resilience, composure and verve.
During the season's first half, the Cavaliers were fortunate to escape Indiana and Idaho, two of college football's weakest teams — the Hoosiers and Vandals are a combined 3-19. Since, Virginia has upset nationally ranked Georgia Tech and Florida State.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech has come from behind in seven of its victories, most impressively at Wake Forest and at home against Miami. The Hokies struggled at 5-6 East Carolina and 3-8 Duke, but like the Cavaliers, they have found ways to win.
Asked how, Beamer starts with sophomore quarterback and first-year starter Logan Thomas.
"I think Logan continues to be a great leader for us, and as he's improved, I really think our offense as a team has improved," Beamer said. "I think we're balanced in the way we can throw the ball and can run the ball.
"Defensively we've kind of hung in there. We've had some tough injuries over there on the defensive side, but we've battled. We haven't always been pretty over there, but we battle. … I'm proud of where our football team is."
As London is of his.
"It started with Georgia Tech, then we went on the road and played Miami," he said. "It started to just kind of snowball a little bit. … I looked at the game at Florida State. I'm looking across the field, and they look like an NFL team standing there. I look at my guys, I look at their guys. But you know what? It truly doesn't matter about what you see. It's about how you play.
"That's all. All we're judged on is how we play, how we produce. I'm hoping with another game left, another big game left, that the same approach of being prepared, being confident, having gone through the season with different things being accomplished, that this is another opportunity that presents itself."
Like Virginia Tech, and as chronicled by Comrade Wood, Virginia starts a sophomore from Lynchburg at quarterback. The son and nephew of coaches, Michael Rocco has morphed into a dependable leader, and the Cavaliers are 4-0 since he took over the position full-time.
As often the case, and as preferred by Beamer and London, Saturday's game will be a showcase for home-grown talent such as Rocco and Thomas, yet another reason to appreciate the event.
Of the 44 expected starters, 27 hail from Virginia. The in-state group includes running backs Wilson and Jones, receivers Danny Coale and Kris Burd, linebackers Alonzo Tweedy and LaRoy Reynolds.
"I said when I first came to Virginia Tech (in 1987) that if both of us keep the better (in-state) players in the state, that both of us could be successful," Beamer said, "and I think this game … is a perfect example of that. …
"I think it makes a statement about our high school coaches in the state of Virginia, about the kind of kids that come out of the state of Virginia."
Both head coaches hail from the commonwealth as well. And both played their college football here, Beamer at Tech, London at Richmond.
"There doesn't have to be any fake hype or fake talk, anything like that," London said. "We don't need any Twitter account stuff, Facebook stuff, going back and forth. …
"So let's play. We're ready to go."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun