By Stewart Mandel
September 26, 2009

Virginia Tech sent a rousing reminder Saturday that the road to the ACC championship still runs through Blacksburg.

A whole lot of folks (like this guy) had been trumpeting Miami's potential ascension following its impressive season-opening wins over Florida State and Georgia Tech. Lest we forget, however, the Hokies have won three ACC titles and played for a fourth since joining the league in 2004; Miami hasn't won anything in that time. Apparently Virginia Tech isn't ready to surrender supremacy just yet.

Under a torrential downpour that left players from both sides slipping and sliding, the 11th-ranked Hokies served the No. 9 'Canes a vintage bout of BeamerBall in Saturday's 31-7 rout. From the opening minutes, when Virginia Tech safety Dorian Porch drilled Jacory Harris from his backside, forcing a fumble he recovered at the Miami 11, the previously impregnable 'Canes quarterback looked rattled against a relentless Virginia Tech defensive front. The sophomore completed just 2-of-9 throws for 38 yards in the first half, during which time the Hokies built a 21-0 lead.

Harris' Virginia Tech counterpart, Tyrod Taylor, looked far more poised. Continuing the momentum from his game-winning heroics against Nebraska, Taylor completed a 49-yard first-quarter touchdown to Jarrett Boykin and scrambled his way to several long gains. The Hokies piled on with one of their trademark blocked punts for another score.

But the biggest factor in the game was Virginia Tech's running game. Led by redshirt freshman tailback Ryan Williams, the Hokies racked up 154 first-half rushing yards against the same Miami defense that shut down Georgia Tech's vaunted rushing attack a week earlier. The 'Canes showed brief signs of life just after halftime, when Harris led them to a quick touchdown, but a dropped third-down pass by tight end Jimmy Graham crushed their next drive, and a subsequent Harris interception effectively served as their dagger.

Virginia Tech wound up holding Miami's offense to 209 total yards, down from a season average of 465. And a week after netting just 86 rushing yards against the Cornhuskers, the Hokies racked up 272. For the first time, they looked like the team that garnered a No. 7 preseason ranking. If they keep it up, they'll be the team to beat in the ACC -- though that might not be saying much.

On a day when the ACC suffered more nonconference indignities (Florida State's 17-7 loss to USF, Clemson's 14-10 loss to TCU and Maryland's 34-13 loss to Rutgers), Miami's loss -- coupled with Georgia Tech's win over North Carolina -- leaves the ACC as the lone BCS conference without an undefeated team.

The 'Canes (which host No. 10 Oklahoma next week) and Hokies still have plenty of time to reassert themselves in the national picture, but, much like in recent seasons, the rest of the league has been rendered largely irrelevant. It will be interesting to see whether Virginia Tech builds on Saturday's performance or winds up in another season-long derby of similarly bunched teams.

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