More and more, it looks like the Hoos will be bordering on a sub-mediocrity and serious management issues. It is not the talent aspect now-a-days, it comes down to game management, whether it is finishing drives or play calling/execution. But we have to live with what we have this year, and try to finish the season on a positive note. While it doesn’t look like there are many games we can win (and I’ve said that before), this week could be one. But while Duke on paper looks like a good matchup, it might not be that easy. Let’s look at this week’s matchup with the Blue Devils
While the overall record with Duke is solid, 33-31, the Hoos have lost 4 of 5 from the Blue Devils. Still, the lone win in this stretch did come in Charlottesville in 2011, the very venue for this game.
The Blue Devils are 4-2 on the season with wins over FCS NC Central, Memphis, Troy, and Navy. Their 2 losses have come in the Coastal Division to Georgia Tech (38-14) and Pittsburgh (58-55).
Duke is still running their spread system with a single back. Junior Brandon Connette missed last week’s game against Navy, but Cutcliffe says that he will be ready for UVa this week. He is completing 64.1% of his passes for 1,022 yards, 11 TDs to 6 INTs. Whether he goes or not, QB Anthony Boone will get some reps as well, the then-wildcat signal caller is not as efficient, but his size and running ability is and has been a problem for UVa defenses in the past. When they throw the ball, they will be looking for WR Jamison Crowder (618 yards, 2 TD), along with a bevy of others like Brandon Braxton (206, 2), Braxton Deaver (200, 2), Issac Blakeney (158, 4), and Max McCaffrey (153, 3). Running the ball has been split between Jela Duncan and Josh Snead, but both Connette and Boone have been able to get 1st downs and score as well.
This will be the first 4-2-5 defense the Hoos will see all season. This defense implores a nose guard on the line, middle and weak-side linebacker and 3 safeties in the backfield. Safety Jeremy Cash (58 tackles, 6 TFL, 2 INTs) is the leading tackler for the Blue Devils. Linebackers Kelby Brown (41 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 fumble recovery) and David Helton (51 tackles, 1.5 TFL) man the 2nd line very stoutly. Kenny Anunike (28 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3 sacks) is the main backfield threat coming off of the defensive end.
How Virginia Will Win
1. Finish drives. Too many times this season Virginia gets in the Red Zone and is unable to score touchdowns. Of their 22 trips, only 11 have resulted in touchdowns. It lost both the Pitt and Maryland game. Trading field goals for touchdowns wont win this game.
2. Backfield pressure. While the Hoos will have to spend most of the day in nickel, they need to disrupt the quarterback constantly and hope to create some turnover opportunities.
3. Long Fields. If the Hoos can’t score, they need to leave Duke a lot of green between them and the endzone. Special teams need to be on point and not screw the pooch this week.
While Duke has owned UVa of recent, Virginia is somehow a slight favorite going into this game. The Hoos are currently a 2-point favorite, but might end up as a ‘pick em’ by game time. I want to believe that the Cavs can pull it off, but two things are working against them: (1) spread offenses and (2) our inability to finish drives. Unless Virginia can figure out how to work out those issues, I’ll keep picking against them. But, like I said before, if there is a game to try to turn this thing around, Duke would be the opponent. Prediction: Duke 33, Virginia 27.