- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wake Forest has dropped out of the rankings, has trouble running the ball and has been plagued by inconsistency and injuries. Virginia is coming off a heartbreaking loss and is still having trouble scoring.

In the ACC, that’s good enough to be in position to win a division title.

Both teams enter Saturday’s matchup in Winston-Salem, N.C., with the opportunity to become bowl eligible and be in first place by the end of the day. Despite a gut-wrenching, overtime loss to Miami last week, Virginia (5-4, 3-2) is in a three-way tie for second in the Coastal Division. The Cavaliers are a half-game behind Georgia Tech, which faces a difficult road game at North Carolina.

Wake Forest (5-3, 3-2) got a boost when Maryland lost to Virginia Tech on Thursday, leaving the Demon Deacons tied with the Terrapins and Florida State for the Atlantic Division lead.

“We pay attention to everything,” Wake Forest defensive tackle Boo Robinson said. “We feel that our hopes of being in the ACC championship game and ACC champs aren’t diminished yet. Seeing how the season has been going, there’s no telling who’s going to win.”

Eight of the league’s 12 teams enter the weekend with two conference losses. Even though Virginia ranks 112th in the country in scoring and Wake Forest is 101st, its past problems could be erased with a strong finish.

“In the ACC, teams show up for games and they look totally different than they did the week before,” Virginia nose tackle Nate Collins said.

It happened to Wake Forest last week. Finally getting its offense in gear, the defense allowed Duke to get into a shootout. Wake Forest survived 33-30 when Alphonso Smith came up with an interception in overtime.

Virginia was on the verge of winning its fifth straight game before letting Miami tie it on an improbable touchdown with 55 seconds left. The Hurricanes went on to win in overtime 24-17.

“Obviously it was a disappointing loss, and it’s frustrating the way it happened,” quarterback Marc Verica said. “We’re just going to use it to motivate us for the coming week.”

Wake Forest topped its entire October scoring output against the Blue Devils but could again be without kicker Sam Swank (strained quadriceps). Running back Josh Adams (ankle) could return after sitting out last week.

And, for a program that has struggled for so long until its recent emergence, getting a sixth win to become bowl eligible for a third straight year is significant to the Demon Deacons, who had played in only four bowl games before the 2006 season.

“Three straight bowls would be a huge for Wake Forest. Nobody’s ever done that,” Robinson said. “A goal I’ve always had was to go every year. We’ve got to get this third one first and we’ve got to get this sixth win.”

It will involve ending another streak of ineptitude from the past. Virginia has won 20 of the past 21 meetings with Wake Forest, including a remarkable 10 straight in Winston-Salem.

“So many things for us seem to be a first,” coach Jim Grobe said. “It’s mind-boggling how many firsts you’re trying to accomplish.”

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