October 25, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Wednesday Reset – Week 4

Week 3 is in the books with an uneven but eventually comfortable win over Duke, and it’s time to take a quick look back at the takeaways from around the league last week and evaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:

 

Quick Hit Thoughts Of The Week

Wasn’t a perfect game, but at the end of the day it was a 2+ score win. Given that Duke had a couple games to warm up whereas UVA was coming in cold, I think what we saw Saturday was fair.

Brennan’s 2 INTs and a few inaccurate throws were disappointing, but worth giving him some slack. He had over 300 yards of total offense and 3 TDs to go with his two turnovers.

We reviewed the history of UVA’s Quarterback Debuts in Opening Day Games over the last 20 years on Saturday (link) and when comparing Brennan to some of those results, his performance against Duke is very favorable. In all of the “flops” we listed, the offense never scored more than 20 points. Saturday, it was 38, and only one of those TDs was a true short field. We had two long TD drives (75 and 94 yards) plus two intermediate-length TD drives (54 and 49 yards), which is more than a lot of Brennan’s predecessors could manage in their Day 1 Debuts. That he did it against a P5 opponent (even if “just Duke”) is even more encouraging. Guys like Hagans and Perkins had lower level programs as warm-ups.

The run blocking and running game with Taulapapa and Simpson was very encouraging. They, with Perris Jones, combined to run for 142 yards on 26 carries (5.5 ypc) against a solid front 7, adding four catches out of the backfield for another 20 yards. It’s important balance to go with the designed QB runs and Brennan’s passing game.

Obviously Lavel Davis gets all the love for his breakout debut (4 catches, 101 yards, 2 highlight reel TDs as a true freshman), but Billy Kemp very quietly had 7 catches for 70 yards.

Terrell Jana had a quiet day (4 for 29 yards) and Ra’shaun Henry was held catchless, but that won’t last forever, as defenses are forced to shift coverage off them and onto Davis, Kemp, and Poljan.

Duke’s excellent defensive front scored 3 sacks on ND’s vaunted OL and six sacks against the traditionally stout BC offensive line. Saturday our OL gave up only 1. Kudos to the entire unit.

What can you say about 7 takeaways by our defense?

Oh, and five sacks. Absolutely lived in Duke’s backfield.

Oh, and holding Duke’s running backs to only 91 yards on 25 carries (3.64 ypc).

Of Duke’s 20 points, 10 came on really short fields off the turnovers, so really the defense only gave up 10 points off standard field position.

All around thorough performance by the defense, which was to be expected given their veteran status. After that one blown seam route in the 1st quarter where Marwede scored Duke’s first TD, UVA buckled down the rest of the day.

Sixth straight win against Duke, feels like that’s balance having been restored. As someone who came up when Welsh (and the rest of the ACC) owning Duke was like the sun rising in the east, I like this series being back to lacking drama and uncertainty.

The Clemson game is house money. But what’s important is coming out of that game healthy, Brennan’s confidence improved, and then taking care of business against NC State and Wake, both of whom UVA should beat, but won’t be a given. The goal right now is a 3-1 start then reevaluate as the Hoos schedule gets tougher afterwards.

 

VirginiaSportsTV Highlights

 

 

Depth Chart Moves

Not a ton of changes here. Dillon Reinkensmeyer and Ryan Nelson are switched between LT and LG, which is where they ended up playing against Duke. Joey Blount should be good to go as starting safety after being dinged against Duke. As usual, don’t read too much into it. Davis as a backup WR is semantics, as he’ll play as much as anyone else. Still waiting to see Bratton seize a corner spot back, and curious why Amos still isn’t getting work at PR.

ACC Power Rankings

1. Clemson (Prev: 1) – 2-0 (1-0) – Bye week for Clemson completed as they tune up for a big run of games that includes UVA, Miami, and ND before their next bye. Still the class of the ACC until proven otherwise.

2. Notre Dame (Prev: 2) – 2-0 (1-0) – ND had to cancel their game with Wake this week after COVID issues arose in South Bend. They’re probably still the league #2, but if they can’t get back on the field, Miami’s going to pass them.

3. Miami (Prev: 3) – 3-0 (2-0) – Anyone not paying attention yet? The dominated FSU in every phase over four quarters, scoring at will and living in FSU’s backfield. FSU is bad, but Miami’s currently firmly in the league’s top tier with annual powers Clemson and ND for now.

4. Pittsburgh (Prev: 5) – 3-0 (2-0) – All Pitt’s done so far is win, boasting back-to-back home wins over Syracuse and Louisville. The defense looks great, the offense still shaky. They’ve got a their fourth straight home game against NC State this week.

5. Virginia Tech (Prev: 9) – 1-0 (1-0) – So much for Tech’s COVID-related gameday problems. Despite missing 20 players and some coaches, they still crushed NC State behind a stout OL and impressive running game.

6. North Carolina (Prev: 4) – 1-0 (1-0) – So far all we’ve got on UNC is a win over a bottom-half Syracuse and preseason hype. They’re still a good team, but the teams ahead of them have been more impressive on the field so far. Road trip to BC will be big.

7. Virginia (Prev: 7) – 1-0 (1-0) – Hoos hold steady around the middle of the ACC. Uneven start to the year breaking in a new QB, but the defense was impressive, securing 7 takeaways, and the OL looked good against Duke’s capable edge rushers.

8. Louisville (Prev: 6) – 1-2 (0-2) – Pitt and Miami are both good teams, so I don’t want to read a ton into Louisville losing to both, though the injury to QB Malik Cunningham is very concerning. Time will tell how serious it is. For now they’re in the middle tier of the league until we see them beat some ACC teams.

9. Boston College (Prev: 8) – 2-0 (1-0) – That win over Duke probably says more about Duke than BC, and needing a furious 4th quarter comeback to win at home over Sun Belt middleweight Texas State isn’t reassuring.

10. Syracuse (Prev: 15) – 1-2 (1-2) – Have yourself a day, Syracuse. Tough losses to UNC and Pitt, both of whom are probably top-half league teams, are behind you and you scored a solid win over GT to establish yourself closer to the league’s middle, this week’s big riser.

11. Georgia Tech (Prev: 10) – 1-2 (1-1) – The win over FSU was great and a big confidence builder for a young team, though the loss to Syracuse was a missed opportunity. They’re off this week but will try to get back on track against Louisville the week after.

12. Florida State (Prev: 11) – 0-2 (0-2) – The start to the Norvell era at FSU just keeps getting worse. After opening with a loss to rebuilding GT, FSU got SMOKED 52-10 by rival Miami. They lick their wounds  against Jacksonville State on Saturday.

13. NC State (Prev: 12) – 1-1 (1-1) – So what happened, State? You looked feisty in a tight win over Wake Forest, then barely even got off the bus before VT railroaded you on Saturday night? I’m betting that mostly says Wake wasn’t that impressive a win.

14. Wake Forest (Prev: 14) – 0-2 (0-2) – Wake was off last week, and their narrow loss to NC State now looks worse after State’s blowout at the hands of VT. They play Campbell on Friday, but won’t face another ACC team until coming to Charlottesville on Oct 17th.

15. Duke (Prev: 13) – 0-3 (0-3) – Are there ACC teams I think Duke could beat? Maybe. But 0-3 is 0-3, and there’s no fixing having an awful QB situation.

 

Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend

Hoos play at 8 PM on the ACC Network on Saturday, though not a ton of great ACC content this week to watch otherwise, with a couple league schools playing their gimme +1’s (FSU and Wake) and five others on bye (Louisville, Cuse, Miami, GT, and ND), . A couple of good Top 10 SEC matchups, though, for those interested:

 

Saturday

NC State at Pittsburgh – 12:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: Hoos play the Wolfpack in a week, so this is an opportunity to get a good look at an NC State team that the Hoos will probably be favored over. Pitt’s offense is inconsistent, but their defense should easily carry the day.

UNC at Boston College – 3:30 PM Eastern – ABC: Both squads are on the Hoos’ schedule down the road, so it’s a big game for us to watch and get a feel for our future opportunities. UNC was off for two straight weekends, so lets see how sharp they are on the road.

Texas A&M at Alabama – 3:30 PM Eastern – CBS: Alabama’s the heavy favorite here (-17) but pollsters like Texas A&M (ranked 10th). The Aggie defense looked good against Vanderbilt last week, but senior QB Kellen Mond was very rusty in his season debut.

Virginia Tech at Duke – 4:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: Virginia Tech should run away with this one, Duke’s about to capitulate after three straight bad losses and Tech looked sharp in running away from NC State Saturday.

Auburn at Georgia – 7:30 PM Eastern – ESPN: The Dawgs and Tigers are ranked 4th and 8th, respectively, after each rolled in their season openers. Georgia’s got itself a QB controvery, though, after touted RS Freshman D’Wan Mathis was benched in the 2nd quarter for veteran backup Stetson Bennett, both could play against Auburn.

The Remaining Schedule

Sat, Oct 3 – at Clemson: Win confidence 2 – I’m not going to get greedy here. This Tigers squad is every bit as good as the one that beat us by 5 TDs last December.

Sat, Oct 10 – NC State: Win confidence 8 – Assuming we make it out of Death Valley in one piece, this State team just got exposed at VT and should meet a similar fate in Scott Stadium if the Hoos can cut out the turnovers.

Sat, Oct 17 – at Wake Forest: Win confidence 7 – The Deacons do get a couple weeks to prepare for us, playing Campbell this week and on bye next week. But UVA is the better program across the board.

Sat, Oct 24 – at Miami: Win confidence 3 – Yeah, if I wasn’t sure that Miami was one of the league’s best teams last week, I am now. I know FSU sucks, but beating them by 6 touchdowns takes a lot.

Sat, Oct 31 – North Carolina: Win confidence 5.5 – I’m in tossup mode still. UNC’s only played once, two weeks ago vs Syracuse. I need to see more to see if they’ve really taken a “next step”.

Sat, Nov 7 – Lousiville: Win confidence 6 – Feeling a little better about this one after the Cards couldn’t get the job done against Miami or Pitt. They’re still a good team, above-average in the ACC. Let’s see if Malik Cunningham is healthy.

BYE WEEK

Sat, Nov 21 – Abilene Christian: Win confidence 10 – ACU’s lone game is still their 4-point loss to UTEP, but will play again this weekend at Army. Virginia will get to rest starters early in this one.

Sat, Nov 28 – at FSU: Win confidence 7 – Weird to say I’m betting comfortably on the Hoos to win at Doak-Campbell, but this Noles squad has so many issues on both defense and offense, UVA should be able to capitalize.

Sat, Dec 5 – Boston College: Win confidence 7 – BC’s offense struggled to get on track for 3 quarters against Texas State, and may wear down over the course of the year. They’ll be a tough out, but Hoos should score a win in this one at home.

Sat, Dec 12 – at Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5 – This rivalry game is a true toss-up, and they looked good in their debut over NC State. As with most years, let’s wait and see how teams are playing at the end of the year.

 

Predicted final record: 7-4 (6-4)

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