Virginia and Georgia Tech will square off Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., for the first time since the 1999 Virginia football team won the National Championship.
A win would secure Virginia’s first ACC title since 2003.
The first meeting between the two teams came in the final seconds of the first quarter of last season’s national championship game, which Virginia won by a final score of 41-14.
The Eagles (2-2, 1-1) won that game in Charlottesville.
This time, Virginia’s defense will have more help in the secondary than in previous years.
The Hokies (3-1, 2-1), who also played in Charlottesville last season, have allowed just six total points in the past two games.
With the return of five-star defensive end Jonathan Taylor, who had a season-ending shoulder injury against Virginia, the Hokies will have three seniors in the front seven.
The other returning player to play in Charlottesville is sophomore defensive end Tyron Smith.
He has been limited to limited action with a sore hamstring, but will be counted on to lead the charge in the middle of the field.
Virginia has also taken a page from Alabama’s playbook and is using a three-receiver set.
“We are trying to get more explosive plays from the quarterback, which is important,” said Virginia linebacker Marcus Brown.
“We’ve had some plays where we’ve been out-gaining them.
They’re making a lot of plays in space.
A win here is huge for us.”
Virginia will be without starting defensive back Darius Jennings and defensive tackle Nick Thomas.
Jennings and Thomas both tore their ACLs against Virginia in the opener, while Jennings missed most of the season.
The two will both miss the Cavaliers’ next game.
While Virginia’s starting secondary will be solid, the offense has been a bit inconsistent all season.
Virginia ranks last in scoring offense with 23.4 points per game.
Virginia is 3-0 in ACC games since the start of the 2013 season.
In addition to a national title, the Cavaliers have won the ACC East Division and ACC Tournament championship.
The Virginia-Georgia Tech game is televised nationally on ESPNU.
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