By Brad Fauber
It's Thanksgiving weekend, which means one thing for college football fans -- rivalry week is finally upon us.
There are plenty of classic rivalry games today -- Alabama/Auburn, Ohio State/Michigan, USC/UCLA, Florida State/Florida -- but as a Virginia Tech alum and lifelong fan, of course my focus will be on today's game against the University of Virginia.
It's a game I look forward to every year, but this season I'm finding myself more interested than usual in this rivalry, which is odd considering that neither team has been the poster child of success this season. With the Hokies sitting at just 7-4 after losing three of their last four games, and U.Va. holding a paltry 2-9 record, little more than bragging rights are on the line today. (Although Tech still has a chance to reach the ACC title game, I don't think the Hokies deserve to back their way into the championship game).
For some reason, the buildup to this season's edition of the Virginia Tech-Virginia rivalry has seemed a little more heated than it has in recent years. More and more trash talk has been spewed from both sides over the last week, coming from both the players and the fans. Heck, even the coaches got involved. It's quite refreshing, actually.
At Virginia Tech's weekly press conference on Monday, Logan Thomas, James Gayle, Andrew Miller and Tariq Edwards didn't hold back as they took jabs at the Cavaliers.
Virginia players, on the other hand, have been fairly quiet -- at least from everything that I've read. But a U.Va. coach certainly spiced things up with a few comments directed towards Virginia Tech that emerged earlier this week.
Cavaliers first-year offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild apparently took some shots at Virginia Tech during a radio show a few weeks ago. During an interview, Fairchild delivered a statement that appears as not only a knock on the Hokie football team, but a jab at the entire Tech campus. In a nutshell, Fairchild said that when comparing the two schools' campuses, Virginia should never lose to the Hokies.
That statement didn't sit well with Virginia Tech associate head coach and running backs coach Shane Beamer, who is far from innocent when it comes to taking his own shots at the Cavaliers and has to be near the top of any Wahoos' hate list. In the past, Beamer has taken to Twitter quite a few times to poke fun at U.Va., which usually consists of some jokes in reference to the poor attendance at Virginia's home football games. This week, Beamer made sure to make it known that he took offense to Fairchild's comments, and their little war of words has made for some entertaining reading over the last few days.
But honestly, the rivalry needs this. Am I upset at the comments that Fairchild made? No. Do I think Beamer is wrong for responding to Fairchild's remarks? Absolutely not.
This is what rivalries are supposed to be about. Lord knows this game needs some new life breathed into it, and it's nice to see members from both sides that aren't afraid to get their hands dirty.
Virginia Tech has dominated the rivalry over the last decade, winning nine straight meetings against the Cavaliers. The Hokies have never lost to U.Va. as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The rivalry is very close to becoming stale.
Don't get me wrong, I love watching Virginia Tech beat up on Virginia, and I hope the Hokies never lose to the Cavaliers again. But for this game to start feeling like a real rivalry, there needs to be more than just bragging rights on the line. Give me a game where championship hopes are on the line for both schools, where the sting of a loss to your in-state rival increases ten-fold.
It's hard to tell how far away we are from a scenario like that, or if it will ever happen. But for the time being there are members from both schools that aren't afraid to show a little bit of passion. We can enjoy that, at least.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD