October 26, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Wednesday Reset – Week 5

Week 4 is in the books with a disappointing loss at Clemson, and now 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

Blah blah moral victories. Look, we likely knew this was going to be a loss going into the game, that a near-perfect game by the Hoos was going to be required to pull the upset against a program that’s been as dominant as Ohio State and Alabama the last five years, one of college football’s 3 most consistently great dynasties of the current era. Still stinks to see a tick mark in the loss column.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way. So let’s look at things objectively. Just like in any other game, there are some things to be encouraged by, and some things that will need to be worked on.

Let’s start with Brennan Armstrong. This season’s prospects always depended primarily on how our brand new QB played. Slow start, completing 1 of his first 9 attempts (including 6 incompletions on our first drive) for 11 yards before settling down on the Hoos’ 3rd drive and going 23 of 34 for 259 yards the rest of the way. That “rest of the way” included 3 TDs but also 2 INTs. He added 89 yards on 22 carries as well.

It’s another B- day for Brennan who’s averaging 3 scores and 2 turnovers a game after two contests. It’s not a sustainable ratio for winning football the rest of the season; the question is now whether the turnovers are something he can fix quickly or something we’re stuck with until maybe his junior season?

To be fair, he’s not terrible. I mean, ugh, Chase Brice, amiright? But 2 INT’s per game puts us at tied for 13th in the 15-team ACC, tied with the Blue Devils and behind only GT (2.7 a game).

Comparing stats, though, our 266 passing yards a game ranks 6th, grouped together with Wake (268), Miami (267) and UNC (264) so we’re moving the ball through the air relatively well.

It comes down to the turnovers and the slow starts. NC State’s defense has yet to pick anyone off through 3 games so this hopefully will be the game the TO issue starts to improve.

Run game looked acceptable against a great Clemson front 7 that was scheming to stop the run. Taulapapa and Simpson averaged 3.6 and 3.7 ypc respectively, while Brennan averaged 4.0 (and if you factor out his 3 sacks for -12 yards, he went for 101 yards on 18 carries which is 5.6 ypc). It’s not great, obviously not quite good enough against Clemson. But CU gave up just 3.25 ypc in 2019 (and even that was skewed high by Ohio State and LSU each going for over 5 ypc in the CFP games), so it’s something to be encouraged by.

That speaks well for the OL as much as the backs. Very solid day both in run blocking and pass protection against a Front 7 stacked with 5-stars and future NFL’ers.

Defensively, played well but those missed assignments and tackles on long 3rd downs are going to haunt UVA. Clemson converted 3rd downs of 12, 9, 15, and 16, along with a few shorter ones. Those were backbreakers, long 3rd downs that the Hoos needed to shut down and force punts or FGs to keep the game closer. But Clemson’s 5-star players just made some plays.

Loved the aggression and success rate on 4th down, going 4-of-5. The one we missed, a 4th and 7 when we were down 34-17 early in the 4th quarter, I would’ve kicked a FG. Needed to come away with points there.

Only one penalty for 15 yards (a Nick Jackson facemask) was an excellent level of discipline to see so “early” in the season, on the road, in front of a crowd no less.

Billy Kemp with 10 receptions for 96 yards to lead the team after 7 receptions last week. He had 9 receptions against Clemson in the ACCCG last December. I think he’s kinda “the guy” now.

Jana another steady day, 5 catches for 55 yards and a TD. He’s due for a breakout. With Poljan, Jana, Kemp, and Davis all on the field together, defenses really do have a “pick your poison” situation meaning on most plays, someone will be open for Armstrong, especially with some increased usage of running backs in the passing game as well.

We beat Duke by 18 and lost to Clemson by 18, so the numbers say we’re somewhere smack dab in between the league’s worst and best teams. Sounds about right.

Games against NC State and Wake the next two weeks, games that UVA absolutely can win, are critical to setting the ceiling for the rest of the year.

 

VirginiaSportsTV Highlights

First Year Playing Tracker

PlayerGames PlayedClemson StatsSeason StatsNotes
Ira Armstead2No Stats1 catch, 5 yards receivingPlayed at Clemson but was not targeted in passing game
Jahmeer Carter21 tackle (solo)3 tackles (1 solo, 2 assisted), 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sacksHeavily in defensive line rotation at Clemson
Lavel Davis22 catches, 58 yards receiving6 catches, 159 yards receiving, 2 touchdownsMade first career start at Clemson
Nusi Malani1No StatsNo StatsMade debut against at Clemson on FG and XP teams
Demick Starling1Did not playNo StatsPlayed in season opener versus Duke

As always, this is more for fun this year as there’s no NCAA penalty for playing true freshmen in 2020, so we’re not tracking for “burned redshirts” purposes.

Depth Chart Moves

No real changes here. Given that we never got confirmation on who our COVID losses were last week (resisting the urge to play the “who didn’t play” guessing game), unclear whether any of those players are represented here today. Still hoping to see Bratton get healthy and move off that “OR” backup line. Even though Bobby Haskins got some late PT against Clemson, still not seeing him on the 2-deep today, so he may yet need another couple weeks to get game-ready. Ra’Shaun Henry still ahead of Lavel Davis despite the disparate impacts; at some point Davis has to get himself listed as the 3rd WR starter after Jana and Kemp.

ACC Power Rankings

1. Clemson (Prev: 1) – 3-0 (2-0) – Clemson holds their spot after a highlight reel win over defending Coastal champs UVA. They beat Miami this coming week and they’re likely here all year.

2. Notre Dame (Prev: 2) – 2-0 (1-0) – Another off week for the Irish, I’ll keep them here for now, though a bit of skepticism remains. May not really get a feel for them until they seen Louisville and Pitt later this month.

3. Miami (Prev: 3) – 3-0 (2-0) – Off week for the Canes last week after their momentous FSU win. They don’t necessarily need to beat Clemson on Saturday, but they ought to be battling late.

4. Virginia Tech (Prev: 5) – 2-0 (2-0) – They’re 2-0 against bottom-half NC State and Duke despite heavy personnel shortages. If they can get healthy, look out. Transfer RB Khalil Herbert could be all-ACC.

5. North Carolina (Prev: 6) – 2-0 (2-0) – I continue to need to see more from UNC. They weren’t dominant in either of their wins (Syracuse and BC). This still looks a lot like last year’s slightly-better-than-.500 team.

6. Virginia (Prev: 7) – 1-1 (1-1) – A loss is a loss, even respectably to the #1 team. Hoos defense struggled to get off the field on 3rd downs and Armstrong needs to cut out the INTs.

7. NC State (Prev: 13) – 2-1 (2-1) – The week’s big winner, upsetting Pitt on the road was big. The switch from Brock Hoffman to Devin Leary at quarterback may be the difference maker.

8. Pittsburgh (Prev: 4) – 3-1 (2-1) – The Pitt hype train came to a crashing halt after losing to underdog NC State. Their defense was the culprit, unable to slow down State’s passing game, generating zero turnovers, though the offense repeatedly stalled out deep, 3 FGs and a turnover-on-downs inside NCSU’s 25.

9. Louisville (Prev: 8) – 1-2 (0-2) – A bye week was needed after two tough losses to UM and Pitt. Malik Cunningham is reportedly healthy, but their defense needs to show up against GT.

10. Boston College (Prev: 9) – 2-1 (1-1) – A heart-breaking loss to UNC after a botched game-ending 2-point conversion, BC’s first loss, still showed some promise, effectively slowing down Carolina’s vaunted offense.

11. Syracuse (Prev: 10) – 1-2 (1-2) – The went into their bye week with some positive momentum after a 17 point win over GT. Playing bottom-dweller Duke Saturday will allow that momentum to continue.

12. Georgia Tech (Prev: 11) – 1-2 (1-1) – No movement for GT this week; their FSU win continues to look less impressive.

13. Florida State (Prev: 12) – 1-2 (0-2) – They had to come back from a multi-touchdown deficit against Jacksonville State. After a 6-TD blowout loss to Miami. FSU has a long way to go; I doubt the turnaround starts this week in South Bend.

14. Wake Forest (Prev: 14) – 1-2 (0-2) – I refuse to elevate them for slaughtering FCS Campbell. They’ve got a bye before welcoming UVA where they’ll finally get a chance to impress.

15. Duke (Prev: 15) – 0-4 (0-4) – They put up some fight against a drastically short-handed VT but still couldn’t get it done. What can you say, they don’t have a good QB, and without a good QB they might not win a game this year.

Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend

Hoos have the early kickoff on Saturday, a noon eastern ACC Network date, but a lot of other games to flip to on commercial breaks and watch later in the day:

 

Friday

Louisville (-5.5) at Georgia Tech – 7:00 PM Eastern – ESPN: Cards lost two tough games to top 10 Miami and at Pitt; critical for the future Hoos foe (Nov 7th) to get back on track at GT after both teams were on bye.

Saturday

Virginia Tech (+5) at UNC – 12:00 PM Eastern – ABC: Big game for racking-and-stacking the top-half of the ACC. Both teams struggled to put away bottom-half opponents last week (Duke and BC), but will bring their A-games to Chapel Hill. Tech’s COVID situation could prove the difference maker.

Pitt (-5) at Boston College – 4:00 PM Eastern – ACC Network: Good matchup of league middleweights, BC (UVA plays 12/5) looked competitive against UNC.

Miami (+15) at Clemson – 7:30 PM Eastern – ABC: This is the league’s first real heavyweight matchup, though a 2-TD spread seems excessive. Miami is reinvigorated and D’Eriq King will singlehandedly keep this game interesting.

Florida State (+21) at Notre Dame – 7:30 PM Eastern – NBC: For commercial breaks during Miami-Clemson, Notre Dame missed a couple weeks due to COVID and could be rusty as FSU comes to town. The 1993 #1-vs-#2 clash this is not.

The Remaining Schedule

Sat, Oct 10 – NC State: Win confidence 7 – Dropped a notch after State’s big road win at Pitt. New starting QB Devin Leary looked excellent under center. Their defense is still a work in progress though.

Sat, Oct 17 – at Wake Forest: Win confidence 6.5 – We’re the better team, but Wake’s got a ton of time to rest and prepare. By the time we play, they won’t have played an ACC team since NCSU on 9/19, a 4-week break. Will it mean rust, though?

Sat, Oct 24 – at Miami: Win confidence 3 – As of now, I’m sold on Miami and think this is a game the Hoos are going to struggle to win, Canes are maybe the clear ACC #2.

Sat, Oct 31 – North Carolina: Win confidence 6 – UNC so far hasn’t taken the “next step” many predicted they would. As such, Hoos should be right there with them, edge goes to the home field.

Sat, Nov 7 – Louisville: Win confidence 6 – I’ll reevaluate after I see how they do against GT (and us against NC State). This should be a competitive one, Hoos with the narrow edge.

BYE WEEK

Sat, Nov 21 – Abilene Christian: Win confidence 10 – ACU dropped to 0-2 after a 32 point loss to Army. They’re coming to Charlottesville for the paycheck, little else.

Sat, Nov 28 – at FSU: Win confidence 8 – It feels weird to be this confident about beating FSU, but there’s no excuse. If Jacksonville State could make them sweat, the Hoos should be able to play well, even in Tallahassee.

Sat, Dec 5 – Boston College: Win confidence 6 – BC is fighting. They beat Duke (by more than we did), and they battled UNC close. TBD if this young team gets better or breaks down over the course of a long, challenging season.

Sat, Dec 12 – at Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5 – I’m not certain whether it’s good or bad to have had our game moved to December, Hokies have looked good early, though their QB situation needs to be sorted out badly. Anyways, we haven’t won in Lane since 1998 so I’ll keep this a toss-up.

Predicted final record: 7-4 (6-4)

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