December 2, 2020

Independent analysis and commentary on UVA athletics

Gameday Guide – Abilene Christian

A suddenly hot Wahoo football teams closes out a three-game homestand on Saturday afternoon. Fresh off of consecutive rivalry game wins, Virginia (3-4, 3-4) dips down into the FCS ranks for its next opponent.

This week’s visitor is Abilene Christian (1-4) of the Southland Conference. The Wildcats out of Abilene, Texas will be UVA’s lone nonconference game during the 2020 regular season.

The Wildcats are coming off of a home loss to Division 2 Angelo State on November 7. Abilene Christian’s lone win on the season was a home victory over FCS Mercer on Halloween. The Wildcats have also dropped games to UTEP, Army, and Stephen F. Austin.

It would be remiss not to mention that it was a hectic week for the Hoos. Offensive line stalwart and multi-year starter Dillon Reinkensmeyer was lost for the season due to an injury sustained against Louisville. And starting defensive lineman Jowon Briggs, who happens to be second on the defense with three sacks, entered the transfer portal and left the team. Our HooAmp delves deeper into that situation here.

Kickoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM.

Game Uniforms

The Hoos go with a classic look this weekend. It’s my favorite and THE look of Virginia football – blue, blue, white.

The current iteration could use some tweaks. But this is as good as it gets.

Series History

This will be the first ever meeting between Abilene Christian and Virginia.

Per UVA’s weekly game notes, Abilene Christian is the first out of state FCS / Division 1AA team played by the Hoos. The Wildcats are also the first new non FBS team to play UVA since James Madison in 1979.

Since there are no ACU game highlights to dial up, the UVA sports Twitter account threw it back to the 1996 home thrashing of Texas where Tiki Barber dominated the Longhorns.

Media Coverage

There’s good news and there’s bad news this week.

First, the good news. The Hoos have escaped the clutches of the ACC Network.

Now, the bad news. You’ll be searching high and low to find your version of RSN aka Regional Sports Network.

Thankfully, UVA put together this graphic to assist with locating which outlets qualify as RSN. There’s probably one you have access to.

Per UVA’s game notes, the 4:00 game will feature Evan Lepler on play by play. Brian Jordan will be the color analyst. And Lyndsay Rowley will be the sideline reporter.

As usual, Dave Koehn and Tony Covington have the radio call for the Virginia Sports Radio Network. You can find theirΒ affiliates listΒ at the link.

Finally, satellite radio coverage can be found at these channels: Sirius – 135, XM – 194, SiriusXM Internet Streaming – 956.

What Worries Me About Abilene Christian

Nothing To Lose

After having their home finale versus Arizona Christian canceled last week, this game will function as ACU’s senior day as it’s their last game of the season. Coupled with the opportunity to go on the road and take down a Power 5 team, expect the Wildcats to be sky high for this game.

The Hoos can also expect Abilene Christian to pull out all the stops. Trick plays, the unconventional, fakes, aggressive play calls, pushing the envelope on 4th down conversion attempts – it will all be on the table.

UVA must be prepared to match the intensity of the Wildcats from the outset. They must have a plan to deal with with the throw everything at the wall approach. The Hoos cannot turn the ball over.

Otherwise, ACU will get a glimmer of confidence. And if it takes root, it can build. And then who knows? Better to nip it in the bud before it can become an issue.

Peyton Mansell

Mansell is Abilene Christian’s quarterback. A junior transfer from Iowa, the 6-2 pro-style QB is currently completing 61.7% of his passes. He’s thrown for 1,109 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. Mansell has only thrown 3 interception as well.

Last time out against Angelo State wasn’t a great outing for Mansell (16 for 35, 1 TD, 0 interceptions, 155 yards).

But Mansell’s best effort of the season was against FBS Army. Against Army, Mansell passed for a season high 279 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the game at Army, Mansell threw no interceptions while completing 62.2% of his passes (23 for 37).

UVA’s pass rush will be key here. The UVA pass defense is currently ranked 113th in FBS. They’re giving up 290.6 yards per game through the air while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 61.0% of their passes.

What Worries Me For UVA

Turnovers

Abilene’s most likely path to victory follows a road paved by Wahoo turnovers. A team as outmatched as the Wildcats figure to be will need all the extra possessions they can get.

Those extra possessions serve to keep the ball away from the favorite. They increase the chances of putting points on the board.

And the Hoos still have a negative turnover margin for the season at -0.43 turnovers per game. Their aggregate turnover margin stands at -3.

The turnover margin per game ranks 89th in FBS.

Why I Should Worry Less

Last time out for the Wildcats…

The Division 2 Rams finished their season at 2-2.

Prediction

On paper, this shouldn’t be much of a game.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives UVA a 98.6% chance of winning the game. And ESPN’s PickCenter shows the Hoos as a 39.5 point favorite.

The Hoos should have three goals in this game beyond winning.

  1. Put the game away as early as possible.
  2. Get out of the game healthy.
  3. Have Lindell Stone ball out for a career day.

The Hoos have a shot to get their record back to .500 after a 1-4 start. They get it done easily.

UVA wins 42 to 7.

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