- - Wednesday, November 16, 2011

BLACKSBURG, Va. — It would make for great drama next Saturday if the Coastal Division championship is on the line when No. 9 Virginia Tech and Virginia face off in Charlottesville.

But the Hokies, who lead the Cavaliers by one game with two to play, would breathe a lot easier if they could wrap it up this week.

Tech (9-1, 5-1 ACC) could clinch its second straight division title, and fifth in seven years, with a win over North Carolina (6-4, 2-4) Thursday night at Lane Stadium and a UVa. loss at Florida State on Saturday.

Failing that, the battle for the Commonwealth Cup on Nov. 26 will decide which of the two will play Clemson in the ACC championship game Dec. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.

“I plan on beating Virginia. That’s my goal, regardless of what it’s for,” Hokies senior wide receiver Danny Coale said. “I think the team wants to win. Whether it’s for the Coastal crown or not, that doesn’t really matter. I’m not really looking towards that one right now.”

As hard as it may be, Tech is trying not to look ahead to next week. It hosts a UNC team Thursday that has faced its share of turmoil this year but still is capable of doing some damage to a team’s championship hopes.

“I don’t know why their record isn’t better,” Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “They’re talented and as good as anybody we play in our league.”

The Tar Heels are looking to duplicate the success they had two years ago when they came into Blacksburg on a Thursday night and dashed the Hokies’ hopes of going to the ACC title game with a 20-17 win.

“I remember two years ago they came off a tough loss and came in here and took it to us and beat us,” said Tech coach Frank Beamer, whose next win will be his 250th. “They have capabilities, there’s no question about that.”

UNC would love nothing more than to muddle the ACC championship picture and put a damper on what figures to be an emotional Senior Night.

Thursday marks the final home game for 17 seniors, a group that includes nine offensive starters and two defensive starters.

“It’s going to be a special moment,” Coale said. “As a senior class, we’ve had a lot of special moments inside that stadium and with those fans. And knowing it’s your last one, I’m going to try to enjoy every moment of it.”

Tech’s defense faces the challenge of stopping one of the most balanced offenses in the ACC one week after matching up with Georgia Tech’s unique spread option.

UNC has a 1,000-yard rusher in redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard, a big-play receiver in senior Dwight Jones and a quarterback capable of carving up opposing defenses in sophomore Bryn Renner.

“They can get the ball into different guys’ hands and they can make plays,” Tech junior cornerback Jayron Hosley said. “We see it on film. It’s an offense that’s dynamic, probably one of the best we’ve faced all season talent-wise. They’re going to be all over the field. We’ve just got to be ready.”

The effectiveness of UNC’s offense depends greatly on Renner, a West Springfield native, who has passed for 2,271 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this season.

Read Media General’s coverage of the Hokies at VTeffect.com

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