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Virginia-Virginia Tech grudge match brings unexpected October heat

Hear YE, Hear YE! It's Wednesday and all is well!

But in a little more than 72 hours, things will be far from well. The highly-ranked boys from Blacksburg are coming to town for this year's rendition of the Commonwealth's rowdy rivalry.

Some of you are probably thinking that it is too early to play the Hokies. The game, which has been the season-ending contest for eight of the last nine years, returns to October this season. But don't worry, this weekend's showdown will have just as much intensity as the recent post-Thanksgiving battles.

Admittedly, I was a little disgruntled when I first learned that the game had been moved to October. Several of my cousins attended Virginia Tech and at our annual Thanksgiving gathering, much of the discourse focused on the upcoming grudge match. Of course, some good-natured trash-talking took place as well. So I was disappointed that we couldn't give each other the usual run around this year. But I'm sure we'll make up for it with some quick shots over e-mail. How can I be so sure? Well, because this rivalry is bigger than November and a few family jokes.

"Coming from out of state, Virginia-Virginia Tech is really like a Penn State-Ohio State type of rivalry game," Cav guard Noel LaMontagne said.

Penn State-Ohio State. Florida-Florida State. Texas-Texas A&M. Virginia-Virginia Tech. To the Commonwealth, this game is just as big as any of those other highly touted in-state rivalries. In fact, this contest has gotten so intense in recent years that a trophy was added to the mix.

Beginning in 1996, the annual winner walked away with the Commonwealth Cup for the year. And for the sixth time in seven seasons, both teams are ranked in the top 25. Tech enters the game ranked eighth, while the Cavaliers hold the 24th spot.

As if that's not enough, the Hokies still have a bitter taste in their mouths from last season's game. Virginia trailed by 22 points before mounting a school record comeback to overcome the Hokies. Twenty-two points. In the second half. All in front of the Lane Stadium faithful. Ouch.

But wait -- there's more.

There was 1990 when Virginia began the season 7-0 only to finish 7-4. One of those four losses was to the Hokies, who promptly began to wear T-shirts proclaiming "Hoo's No. 1 now?"

And what about the 1995 game in Scott Stadium? With a Hokie player streaking downfield towards the endzone, Joe Gieck tried to trip the opponent. He's the Cavalier trainer, not a player! Then there's the fact that some people think that Virginia Tech could run the table and earn a Bowl Championship berth in the Sugar Bowl.

ESPN's Lee Corso maintains that the Hokies have a legitimate shot of making it to New Orleans for the BCS National Title game. Don't think for one moment that the Cavaliers wouldn't love to turn those dancing Sugar Bowl images into sour grapes. Besides, I need something to tease my cousins about at Thanksgiving and what's better than a Hokie loss to celebrate the holidays?

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