Weeks 1 and 2 are in the books… well for near everyone else anyways, and it’s time to take a quick look back at the takeaways from the ACC’s first two weeks and evaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:
Quick Hit Thoughts Of The Week
Well here we are, bearing down on our 4th opening game opponent. First VMI cancelled their season. Then half of Virginia Tech’s team went into COVID protocol. At that stage it left Clemson in Week 4 as our first opponent. Then the Duke game got moved up from November to become our new first opponent. Weird
Duke, of course, has had two games already, going 0-2, first losing to Notre Dame in unsurprising but acceptable fashion, then losing a head scratcher to Boston College.
That means Bronco and the staff have lots of tape on Duke’s offense and defense to use to scheme.
But it also means that they’ve shake off lots of rust, and new QB Chase Brice has started to develop chemistry with his offense. Whereas we’ve got a new QB and new players at the skill positions who probably could’ve used a warm-up game.
ACC does look a bit improved from last year after two weeks, so Virginia does have a tough league slate to run through. One game at a time, though, let’s see if Bronco can continue his consistent winning against Duke, 4-0 so far in his time at UVA.
We’ll have a full preview on Friday, but reader’s digest:
Our offense vs their defense: Duke’s defensive line is incredibly disruptive, 9 sacks through two games against good offensive lines at Notre Dame and Boston College. If you can keep the QB upright, though, both Ian Book and Phil Jurkovic were able to get work done passing the ball, both making good use of their TEs in the process. Retooled OL for the Hoos this year with Swoboda and Reinkensmeyer on the edges while Haskins recovers (see Depth Chart below) so a lot will come down to how well they handle Duke’s excellent pair of edge rushers in Chris Rumph and Victor Dimukeje, and how conservative we have to be with the TEs kept in to block vs deploying them as receivers against Pitt’s linebackers. Oh, and we can’t turn the ball over, which always should go without saying but goes two-fold for Brennan’s first start.
Our defense vs their offense: Both Notre Dame and BC were able to shut down Duke’s offense. Notre Dame’s got studs but BC, under a new coaching staff, wasn’t expected to be that effective. Duke turned the ball over five times vs the Eages (3 fumbles, 2 INTs), with 2 more fumbles the week before against the Irish. If the Hoos are crisp with their assignments and tackling, they should be able to hold Duke to 14 or so. Expect Cutcliffe to put UVA in situations where they have to tackle in space, counting on some first game sloppiness. Key here I think is no long plays; BC let Duke rip off a 49 yard TD run in the first quarter, so assignments are key.
How nice would it have been to be sitting pretty with a win over VT right now? Sigh. We’ll get them in December I guess, lovely time of the year for Lane Stadium.
— Virginia Cavaliers (@VirginiaSports) September 23, 2020
Depth Chart Moves
— Bennett Conlin (@BennettConlin) September 21, 2020
First depth chart of the season so a ton to unpack here.
Wideouts: Surprised to see them list four wideout positions counting the H role, but the starters are all as expected: Jana, Kemp, Kelly, and Henry. Injuries and opt-outs kept the second string devoid of young returning scholarship talent: no Obasi or Beal (maybe in a few weeks), no Wicks or Goddard (maybe next year). Instead second string includes two true freshmen (Starling and Davis) and two recruited walk-ons (Harrison and Mitchell, the latter of whom received a scholarship last month).
Quarterback: Brennan #1, obviously. But Keytaon Thompson being listed as a Co-#2 with Stone and Armstead is frankly a little weird. No disrespect to Stone or Armstead, but neither should be on Thompson’s level right now unless there’s something going on with Thompson (banged up? contact tracing?) we don’t know about.
Offensive Line: Boy, where to start. Haskins’ absence sucks, he looked very promising last year, expect him back for the NC State game in three weeks. Bye bye Alex Gellerstedt, we hardly knew ye, another disappointment from a grad transfer who couldn’t crack the rotation at his last P5 school. Interior looks as expected, but Reinkensmeyer and Swoboda are flip-flopped from where I expected. Also zero clue why Reinkensmeyer and Glaser are listed as juniors.
Defensive Line: Ben Smiley debuts despite not having his number yet after missing a lot of the summer. Had expected to see Redmond on here.
Defensive Backs: Darrius Bratton unable to do any better than co-#2 is disappointing, TBD if that’s about rust or what but there was hope he’d seize a starting job. Cross as a starting CB was a shocker as he’s more naturally a safety, not sure if it says more about Cross playing well or about Bratton and Heskin Smith still having work to do.
Specialists: Surprised D’Angelo Amos, who scored 5 return touchdowns at JMU, isn’t on the depth chart at PR.
Look, Bronco’s depth charts are always a moving target and never something to take overly seriously. In years past it’s been consistently inaccurate, so I’m going to try not to read too much into it today. But it’s still good fodder for debate.
ACC Power Rankings
1. Clemson (Prev: 1) – 2-0 (1-0) – So far, so good. They followed an easy win over Wake with a cakewalk over the Citadel. Bye week this week before welcoming UVA in October.
2. Notre Dame (Prev: 2) – 2-0 (1-0) – They looked a little blah during a two-touchdown win over Duke, but a 52-0 win over USF shows they can at least blow out bad teams. They are shutting down operations this week due to COVID on the team, cancelling their weekend date with Wake Forest, so TBD what effects this has long term.
3. Miami (Prev: 8) – 2-0 (1-0) – So far, so good for the new-look Miami offense. Transfer QB D’Eriq King and RB Cam’Ron Harris form maybe the most dynamic non-Clemson offense in the league. Double-digit wns over UAB and Louisville vault them up the rankings this week.
4. North Carolina (Prev: 3) – 1-0 (1-0) – UNC took care of a bad Syracuse team in Week 1 before having their +1 vs Charlotte cancelled before Week 2. For now, they keep their hype during another off week before facing BC.
5. Pittsburgh (Prev: 7) – 2-0 (1-0) – The Panthers crashed the truncated Top 25 last week after a resounding win over Austin Peay and held serve at home over Syracuse. The defense looks great.
6. Louisville (Prev: 4) – 1-1 (0-1) – The hype train took a hit in a shootout loss to Miami, but for now we’ll say that says more about Miami than the Cards, though the defense didn’t look great.
7. Virginia (Prev: 6) – 0-0 (0-0) – Still no tape on the Hoos, so we’ll keep them around the middle until after they play Duke this weekend.
8. Boston College (Prev: 12) – 1-0 (1-0) – New head coach Jeff Hafley didn’t have a bad roster to work with when he arrived. Getting the defense to hold Duke to just 6 points was an impressive start, and ND transfer QB Phil Jurkovic had an impressive debut with 300 yds and 2 TD.
9. Virginia Tech (Prev: 5) – 0-0 (0-0) – Dropping them until they can get their COVID problem under control, easily the most embarassing case so far in the ACC this season. And when they’re back, just how sharp will they be?
10. Georgia Tech (Prev: 15) – 1-1 (1-0) – Their blowout loss against G5 powerhouse UCF went as expected, but they get credit for beating talented-if-undisciplined FSU in Week 1. 10th feels high but for now that impressive defensive performance in Tallahassee gives them a lift.
11. Florida State (Prev: 9) – 0-1 (0-1) – Mike Norvell joins the ACC to realize his rebuild may be tougher than he thought, as sloppy, turnover-prone offense doomed the Noles against bottom-half Georgia Tech in Week 1.
12. NC State (Prev: 12) – 1-0 (1-0) – Still not super high on the Wolfpack yet, but they did what they needed to do in their first game by beating bottom-half-peer Wake Forest by 3. Defense will need to improve against VT this weekend.
13. Duke (Prev: 10) – 0-2 (0-2) – A 2-touchdown loss to Notre Dame wasn’t the end of the world, the Irish are very good. But falling 26-6 to a BC team breaking in a new Head Coach and a new QB was just disappointing.
14. Wake Forest (Prev: 10) – 0-2 (0-2) – It’s not okay to let NC State put up 45 points on you, sorry Wake, that run defense was inexcusable. Playing Notre Dame next is just things getting worse before they get better.
15. Syracuse (Prev: 14) – 0-2 (0-2) – Bad loss to UNC, bad loss to Pitt, depth problems with opt-outs. The Orange are fighting, but the team isn’t picking up new offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert’s offense fast enough for them to be much of a threat this year.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
Hoos play at 4 PM on the ACC Network on Saturday, so some good early and late games to catch in addition to our contest this weekend. A couple less-interesting games like BC-Texas State, and Notre Dame had to back out of their contest with Wake due to COVID, but still a trio of good, relevant ACC games to tune into:
Louisville at Pittsburgh – 12:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: Louisville took a hit with a shootout loss to Miami, but our cross-division rival will look to bounce back against a Pitt team who’s defense has looked great so far.
Florida State at Miami – 7:30 PM Eastern – ABC: Miami is rocketing up the rankings after two impressive wins and looks to stay hot against an FSU team that stumbled out of the gate losing to GT. The talent is there for FSU to make this a game, though. Hoos face both later this year.
NC State at Virginia Tech – 8:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: NC State got to build a bit of momentum with their Wake Forest win, and now look to take advantage of a tumultuous Virginia Tech roster playing their first game. Under normal circumstances, Hokies would roll, but this isn’t normal, is it?
The Remaining Schedule
Sat, Sep 26 – Duke: Win confidence 6 – If UVA had a game under its belt, whether VMI or VT, I’d feel better. Breaking in a first time starting quarterback makes most any game a tossup.
Sat, Oct 3 – at Clemson: Win confidence 2 – I’m not saying UVA can’t make this game interesting. But I am saying Clemson is still the favorite to run away with the ACC for a reason.
Sat, Oct 10 – NC State: Win confidence 6 – Dave Doeren’s been successful in Raleigh and last year’s collapse was a perfect storm of youth and injuries, so they should be better this year. But by Game 3, Hoos will have rust off and defense should put the offense in a position to win.
Sat, Oct 17 – at Wake Forest: Win confidence 6 – Virginia’s the better program, but Clawson’s a good coach, and they should have some kinks worked out by mid-October. I want to see our offense in good shape before I consider this anything but a toss-up.
Sat, Oct 24 – at Miami: Win confidence 3 – I know saying “Miami is Back” is an annual September rite of passage before they underwhelm down the stretch. But for now they look good, and their defense has had our number the last few years.
Sat, Oct 31 – North Carolina: Win confidence 5 – Not a lot to take away from their rusty but effective Week 1 win over a bad Syracuse. They’re still a top-3rd ACC team until proven otherwise, our secondary needs to be playing well to get this win.
Sat, Nov 7 – Lousiville: Win confidence 5 – Cards have a dynamic offense that will test a UVA defense that sometimes struggles with dual threat QBs. Offense will need to show up to win this one.
Sat, Nov 21 – Abilene Christian: Win confidence 10 – The FCS Wildcats opened their 2020 slate with a 4-point loss to UTEP last weekend. As of now we still see this one as a comfortable UVA win, especially with a bye week the week prior.
Sat, Nov 28 – at FSU: Win confidence 6 – FSU looked bad against GT. Defense was okay but the offense couldn’t do anything right. Solid chance Norvell’s club is mentally packing it in by Thanksgiving.
Sat, Dec 5 – Boston College: Win confidence 6 – Their win over Duke I think says more about Duke than it does BC. This is a solid-but-not-great team, UVA should still manage a home victory, but a lot can change before December.
Sat, Dec 12 – at Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5 – If we’d played this last week, it would’ve been a 7. But I hate the idea of December in Blacksburg, and who knows what rosters with injuries will look like by then. Back to a tossup.
Predicted final record: 6-5 (5-5)