“When Coach London got here, we knew the cup was going to fill. We knew we would step up in recruiting and stuff like that, ended up getting a good [freshman] class this year that helped us. But it would have been hard to say two years ago that we’d be in this spot.”

— Virginia special teams coordinator Anthony Poindexter

Poindexter, who has been an assistant at Virginia since 2004, was referring to the Cavaliers’ game Saturday against Virginia Tech. The winner will advance to the ACC championship game to face No. 18 Clemson.

That’s right, the program that finished 4-8 last season . . . and 3-9 the season before that . . . and 5-7 the year before that . . . is one of three remaining ACC teams with a shot at earning a Bowl Championship Series bid. The Cavaliers have never been to the conference title game, and they’ve never been to a BCS bowl.

Indeed, it would have been very difficult to say two years ago that Virginia would be in this position.

But this season’s team clearly is different from the ones that took the field in recent seasons. The No. 24 Cavaliers’ defense has improved in just about every regard from last season, and in some respects dramatically so. The offense possesses a potent run game, a solid offensive line, a blend of experienced and dynamic receiving targets and a quarterback who has found a nice groove over the past month.

That said, Virginia Tech has defeated Virginia in 11 of their past 12 meetings. The Cavaliers last defeated the Hokies in 2003, the year before Poindexter arrived on staff. But Poindexter remembers what it’s like to beat Virginia Tech and the pride that comes with prevailing over Virginia’s in-state rival. During Poindexter’s days as a safety for the Cavaliers (1995-98), Virginia knocked off the Hokies twice.

It would be incredibly significant for Poindexter, second-year Coach Mike London and the entire Virginia program if the Cavaliers won Saturday. But given how this season has gone, I’m not quite sure you could categorize such an accomplishment as shocking. How many people thought Virginia would beat Georgia Tech? Miami? Florida State?

No. 6 Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC) has won four of the past seven ACC titles and have proven tough to match this season, but the Hokies are far from bulletproof.

All that said, how do you think Virginia (8-3, 5-2) will fare Saturday against its in-state rival? As always, feel free to expand on your vote in the comments section below and/or e-mail me your thoughts at yandas@washpost.com.