Georgia Tech has six victories and is bowl eligible. Virginia isn't and might have to beat the No. 24 Yellow Jackets for the seventh consecutive time at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville on Saturday to get there.
After playing Georgia Tech, the Cavaliers (5-3, 2-3 ACC) host No. 8 Virginia Tech on Nov. 19 and then play at No. 3 Miami on Nov. 26 in their regular season finale. So Saturday's game against the Yellow Jackets -- who haven't won at Scott Stadium since Scott Sisson's last-second field goal gave them a 41-38 upset of top-ranked Virginia in 1990 -- might be their best chance at getting a sixth victory.
"It is the most important game of our season," Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans said yesterday.
The Yellow Jackets (6-2, 4-2), who have won three games in a row and haven't lost since wide receiver Calvin Johnson dropped what would have been a touchdown in the closing seconds of North Carolina State's 17-14 victory Oct. 6, will play in a bowl game for the ninth straight season.
Georgia Tech is one of five ACC teams that already are bowl eligible -- Miami, Virginia Tech, Florida State and Boston College are the others. Five other ACC teams -- Clemson, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia -- have four or five wins.
The Cavaliers have won 20 of their last 22 games at Scott Stadium.
"I expect they're going to be pretty darn good," Virginia Coach Al Groh said of the Yellow Jackets during his weekly news conference in Charlottesville yesterday. "I mean, they're good. They've got a good defense that pressures the quarterback, that's good on third down, that doesn't give up many rushing yards. They've got a good running game with a real good back. They've got a good quarterback, a real good receiver and a real good punter."
Schmidt a Stalwart
Senior defensive end Brennan Schmidt (DeMatha) can tie the school record for starts Saturday with the 48th of his career. Schmidt has started every game the past four seasons after redshirting in 2001. Safety Tyrone Lewis started 48 games in a row from 1988 to 1991.
Schmidt ranks first among ACC defensive linemen with 40 tackles this season and his 264 career stops are fourth among active ACC players.
"We've become pretty accustomed to looking out there and seeing Brennan," Groh said. "It's been a good feeling."
Connor Hughes yesterday was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to college football's top place kicker. Hughes leads the Cavaliers with 73 points, making 16 of 19 field goal attempts and all 25 of his extra-point attempts. His 306 career points are the most in Virginia history and ninth most in ACC history, and his 61 field goals also are the most in school history.
Virginia left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson could get one of his stiffest tests of the season Saturday. After missing four games because of a badly sprained ankle, Georgia Tech defensive end Eric Henderson has notched 31/2 sacks and forced three fumbles the past two games. . . .
Virginia freshman cornerback Mike Brown is 5 feet 9. So how does Groh plan to compensate for Johnson's seven-inch advantage in height? "Easy," Groh said. "Make sure they both always go to opposite sides of the field." . . .
Oakton High running back Keith Payne this week became the 17th player and the fourth from Virginia to orally commit to the Cavaliers. Payne is 6-3 and 215 pounds.