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Schedule Preview: November

Posted on August 23, 2018, in Football by StLouHoo.

This piece is a part of our 2018 football preview. To view other entries in the preview series, click here.

 

Counting down the days until the season kicks off, we're ready to start breaking down the schedule game-by-game, with summaries of each team we'll face and our confidence level in the Hoos to get that win. Today, we'll tackle October, with the September preview posted earlier this week and the November portion of the schedule following later this week. 

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Date: Friday, November 2nd, 6:30 PM

PITTSBURGH

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA

2017 Record:  5-7 (3-5)

Last Meeting:  Pitt 31 - 17 UVA, 10/28/17 @ Pitt

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 43rd (T-3 in the Coastal) 

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 51st (T-3 in the Coastal)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Defensive experience. The Panthers return 9 starters on defense. While the defense was subpar last year, a lot of that can be blamed on youth, and they've got a strong defensive coaching staff led by the head man himself, former Michigan State DC Pat Narduzzi. There are some questions in the secondary, but the front 7 will be a terror both in run defense and blitz packages.

 

Weaknesses: Offensive line and secondary. Both were liabilities last year, the O Line failing to protect their trio of QBs or open up consistent running lanes, the secondary routinely getting torched, and then both had turnover in the offseason. 

 

Summary Thoughts: Since Pitt joined the ACC and the Coastal in 2013, the home team has won every game in this series except once, our home loss to them in the disastrous 2016 season. This can optimistically be called a toss-up game, as Pitt doesn't have that big an edge in talent or experience, which hopefully can be offset with a little home field advantage. Pitt is cautiously hopeful going into this season, pinning hopes on wunderkind sophomore QB Kenny Pickett, the hero of their upset over Miami last year, but a questionable OL could put a damper on his upside. This game will likely come down to a few swing plays under the Friday night lights, be they a big yardage play or two, or a defense coming up with key takeaways.

 

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 5

 

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Date: Saturday, November 10th

LIBERTY

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA

2017 Record:  6-5 (2-3 in the Southern)

Last Meeting:  First ever meeting

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 124th (Unranked in FBS Independents)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 129th

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Coaching. Turner Gill has been a steadying force for the Flames in his six years in Lynchburg, finishing every year with a winning record. The former Kansas head coach even took this team to Waco last year to beat Baylor, so he certainly instills confidence in his players, and has been willing to go into hostile FBS stadiums like UNC, WVU, and VT in recent years. Gill is the kind of coach who will scheme and motivate his team past a talent gap if given the opportunity.

 

Weaknesses: Defensive experience. The Flames have new bodies across the defense, to include three JuCo pickups. They do return a dangerous rush end in Juwan Wells, but otherwise will be undersized and less talented. Their front 7 was atrocious against the run last year, and if Tujage has the O-Line in decent shape come November, their defense could be susceptible to a ground and pound clock-control attack.

 

Summary Thoughts: This game is all about Bronco's move to schedule the most winnable games he can. Liberty is in its first year as an FBS school, having left the safe confines of the FCS Southern Conference and becoming an independent this year in its quest to move up.  This game should be the equivalent of a decent FCS matchup, and the Hoos have no business letting the Flames stay in this one. But at the end of the day, there's also a trap quotient to it, coming between vital ACC Coastal contests, and Gill's worth on the sideline can't be underestimated. Virginia must put this one away early, protecting against costly mistakes that could make things more interesting than they ought to be.

 

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 9

 

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Date: Saturday, November 17th

GEORGIA TECH

Location: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA 

2017 Record:  5-6 (4-4) 

Last Meeting:  Virginia 40 - 36 Georgia Tech, 11/4/17 @ UVA

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 42nd (T-3 in the Coastal)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 39th (T-5 in the Coastal)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: The O-Line brings back six players with starting experience. For an offense primarily built on its running attack, that level of experience is enviable. GT's experienced runners (both its returning QB and its backs) will have extra time to make reads and let holes develop, making this one of the most dangerous GT rushing attacks in years.

 

Weaknesses: The passing attack. Yes, the Triple Option is primarily a rushing attack, but there does come a point where it's overly one dimensional. That was the problem last year and threatens to be this year as well. GT's returning QB, TaQuon Marshall, only connected on 37.1% of his throws last year, and the novice receiving corps only caught a combined 5 balls last year. If it doesn't improve over the course of this year, Virginia can add a 9th defender to the box, trusting our good secondary to hold down the fort in Iso coverage, and be much better equipped to attack the option running attack.

 

GT is also breaking in a new Defensive Coordinator and scheme. Gone is Ted Roof's 4-2-5, in is Nate Woody's 3-4. Major scheme changes are always risky propositions, in the short term especially, as players have to relearn assignments and formations, to say nothing of them potentially being poor fits for a system for which they weren't recruited.

 

Summary Thoughts: Assuming nothing goes horribly wrong in the planned layup drill against Liberty a week prior, the scheduling here is intriguing. Lots of schools are starting to schedule these cream puff games the week prior to their Thanksgiving rivalry clash, but frankly, it would be wasted on VT (more on that below), but leading into a toss-up kind of contest with GT, it's ideal. Prepping for the triple option is a pain in the ass, but it's less of a pain when you can spread that preparation over a couple of weeks... hopefully the Liberty game allows the staff that time to run good practices against the Triple-O scout team. And Bronco's had success coaching against the Triple-O... in his 13 years as a head coach, he's played one of the big Triple-O programs (AFA, Navy, GT) 11 times, posting a career 8-3 record; that includes going 3-1 against Georgia Tech. That's encouraging history.

 

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 5

 

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Date: Friday, November 23rd

VIRGINIA TECH

Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA

2017 Record:  9-4 (5-3)

Last Meeting:  Virginia Tech 10 - 0 UVA, 11/24/17 @ UVA

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 16th (2nd in the Coastal)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 29th (2nd in the Coastal)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Mental edge. It's too obvious to ignore, this is just a program that knows how to play beyond X's-and-O's, and dig deep for certain games. Maybe it's something in the water, maybe Bud Foster made a deal with the redneck devil. But there's a level of intensity that Tech players bring, to the trenches, to the special teams game, to the playcalling and execution, that masks some talent gaps and occasional injuries they suffer. There's a reason the streak stretches across 14 straight contests.

Oh, and the defensive line. As per usual.

 

Weaknesses: Defensive back 7 continuity. Tech lost 7 starters from last year's defense, and then lost another two potential starters to injury or eligibility concerns (Adonis Alexander and Jeremy Webb). There isn't a linebacker on their roster who's played meaningful minutes before this season. The D-Line should be a strength, but the back 7 will have a steep learning curve throughout this year. Time will tell if the youngsters make it to November as a battle-hardened unit or as a beaten down one.

 

Summary Thoughts: As questionable as much of Tech's roster is in the defensive backfield and the skill positions, the ultimate problem is they still have the superior lines. The D-Line of Houston Gaines, Trevon Hill, and Ricky Walker will be one of the better fronts in the ACC, capable of disrupting our offensive sets. And while their offensive line isn't one of the best ones they've had, by late November it could be facing a Virginia D-line that's beat down by overuse and relying on over-matched freshmen, meaning even an average VT O-Line could be able to control the ground game and adequately pass protect. We can't even begin to address the mental aspects of beating VT until we can address our inability to win the point of attack.

 

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 2

 

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2018 Preview