It might not have the downright hostility of Alabama-Auburn, the tradition and pageantry of Army-Navy or the amplification of Oklahoma-Texas. But over the past 10 seasons, there might not have been a more important college football rivalry than Virginia Tech-Miami.
Even though the schools are separated by more than 900 miles and geographically seem even further apart -- Miami has its beaches and Blacksburg has its mountains -- the rivalry is as intense as any in the country.
Since 1995, the Hokies and Hurricanes have won or shared their conference championships eight times, first in the Big East Conference and last season in the ACC, when Virginia Tech won, 16-10, at the Orange Bowl to claim the league title in its first season in the conference and win an automatic spot in the Bowl Championship Series.
Three times in the past seven seasons, Miami and Virginia Tech have played with a BCS berth at stake -- the Hokies won in 1999 and 2004 and Miami won in 2000.
"The stakes are always higher because it always decides who wins an ACC title or a Big East title or who goes to a BCS bowl," Hokies defensive end Darryl Tapp said. "It's always going to be that way."
Saturday night's game between the No. 3 Hokies and No. 5 Hurricanes at sold-out Lane Stadium is no different. The winner will have the inside track to winning the Coastal Division and claiming a spot in the inaugural ACC championship game in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 3, and will remain in the national championship race.
"It is kind of a make-it-or-break-it game," Miami quarterback Kyle Wright said. "There is a lot riding on it."
Blacksburg certainly has had that big-game atmosphere all week. Tickets for the game, the first matchup of Division I-A top-five teams in the state of Virginia, are selling for as much as $800 apiece. ESPN sent its "Gameday" crew here for the second time in five weeks, and media from across the country will pack the not-yet-finished press box at Lane Stadium.
"There are so many things going on this week," Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said. "It's great for Virginia Tech."
If the undefeated Hokies win, they can claim the division title outright with a win in either of their last two conference games, at Virginia on Nov. 19 or at home against North Carolina the following week.
Miami, which has won six straight games since losing at Florida State, 10-7 in overtime, in its Sept. 5 opener, must win out -- after Saturday, the Hurricanes play at Wake Forest and at home against Georgia Tech and Virginia -- or hope the Hokies lose another conference game.
"It seems like it's always an important game," Beamer said. "I think both teams play extremely hard when we play each other. The stakes have always been high."
The stakes are even higher for Virginia Tech this season. The Hokies are third in the BCS standings and, if you believe the number crunchers interpreting the computer formulas, are gaining ground on the teams ahead of them, No. 1 Southern California and No. 2 Texas. So the Hokies, who have beaten the Hurricanes in seven of the past 10 games, have an opportunity to make an impression on voters in the Harris Poll and coaches' poll, which make up two-thirds of the BCS formula.
To play for the BCS national championship in the Jan. 4 Rose Bowl, Virginia Tech has to finish in the top two of the final BCS standings, released on Dec. 4.
"I think the best two teams are going to end up playing for it, whether it's us or not," Beamer said.
With their swarming defense, opportunistic special teams and surprisingly consistent offense, the Hokies have looked like one of the best teams in the country through their first eight games. Virginia Tech has been especially good at home, winning its first four games in Lane Stadium by a combined 167-31. Miami has lost four of its last five games in Blacksburg, including a 31-7 loss in 2003, the worst defeat in Coach Larry Coker's five seasons.
"Don't count us out," Miami fullback Quadtrine Hill told reporters in Coral Gables, Fla., earlier this week. "If they think we're going to lie down when we go to Blacksburg, they have another thing coming. They can't forget this is the 'U.' Any time we come on the field, we have something to fight for."