Fresh off of the emotional, signature win over 15th ranked Miami at Scott Stadium, the Hoos hit the road again. The destination is the Triangle region of North Carolina for the second time this year. Playing host will be the Duke Blue Devils (5-1, 1-1). Duke will be another solid but beatable opponent. What can the Hoos do to return home one win away from bowl eligibility?
UVA busts out a new combination for the second week in a row. This one looks especially nice. And note, in the picture, the V Sabre logo is present on both sides of the helmet. That's probably too good to be true for actual game action, but one can hope.
Win the O-Line Battle
UVA's issues on the offensive line are well covered here, there, and everywhere. That's not breaking any new ground.
But Duke, however, also has OL issues. When I outlined Duke in our preseason football preview, I noted that the Duke OL was a weak point of the team. I wrote...
For Duke to secure another bowl berth in 2018, the offensive line will have to be much better than it was in 2017. The 2017 Blue Devils managed to go bowling but the OL was the team's weak link. That unit lost three of its five starters too. The offensive coaches are banking on better depth to turn out an improved performance but the depth vs talent crutch on the OL is one UVA fans know all too well.
Duke boasts one of the better defenses in the country, 38th in total defense per the NCAA. The Hoos come in at 25th per the same rankings.
And as Dave Koehn and Ahmad Hawkins demonstrated in the latest version of the O&B Report, Duke will use its 4-2-5 defense to challenge your QB and OL. They're going to play tight man on the outside while using stunts and twists to generate pressure on your quarterback. That's something that UVA has struggled with this season.
The team whose offensive line has the best day will go a long way towards winning this game. Courtesy of Football Outsiders, lets look at how the two units stack up.
The link in the prior paragraph has an explanation for what these stats measure. First, the raw numbers.
|Stat - Raw Number||Duke||UVA|
|Std. Downs Line Yards||2.44||2.51|
|Pass Downs Line Yards||3.23||3.26|
|Power Success Rate||50.0%||91.7%|
|Std. Downs Sack Rate||6.1%||8.7%|
|Pass Downs Sack Rate||6.3%||9.2%|
Other than the sack stats, the UVA OL grades out superior when compared to Duke's. Thank goodness for Bryce Perkins!
Now, the NCAA ranking of those raw numbers for some added perspective. The rankings are out of 130 FBS teams. The lower the number, the better the rank.
|Stat - Rank||Duke||UVA|
|Std. Downs Line Yards||75||69|
|Pass Downs Line Yards||22||20|
|Power Success Rate||118||2|
|Std. Downs Sack Rate||92||116|
|Pass Downs Sack Rate||50||83|
Overall, I'd give UVA a slight edge. Where UVA is particularly weak, Bryce Perkins can mitigate a great deal of that weakness.
Flummox Daniel Jones
By all accounts, Duke QB Daniel Jones is an outstanding quarterback. He can beat you with both his legs and his arm as seen in these highlights from Duke's November 2017 win over Wake Forest.
And this week, he began receiving some serious 2019 NFL Draft hype via analysts at CBS Sports.
But if you watched Jones only against the Hoos, you'd have the exact opposite impression. Consider.
Expect the UVA defense to deploy the successful parts of the gameplan from 2016 and 2017. But there will be some new wrinkles too that look to minimize the development Jones has shown year over year while attempting to exploit the weak points in Duke's offensive line.
The more successful the UVA defense is here, the more likely the Hoos are to leave Durham with another win.
Last week, UVA earned captured the signature win of the Bronco Mendenhall era in front of the Homecomings crowd at Scott Stadium. By all accounts, it was the best home atmosphere in ages. It was certainly the best of Bronco's tenure.
This week, it's a road trip to Wallace Wade Stadium on Duke's campus. Wallace Wade has a well earned reputation for small, quiet crowds.
The challenge, as I see it, will be two-fold.
First, UVA must avoid the emotional let down coming off of the Miami win. The team has heard nothing but hype and received nothing but accolades over the last six days. The game itself was emotionally draining. It's the perfect recipe for a slip up on the road.
Second, the atmosphere, or lack thereof, at Duke means the team must generate its own energy. You cannot rely on the crowd to get your adrenaline flowing. This lends itself to a flat team, especially early in the contest.
It's up to the coaching staff and team leaders to set the tone and manage the team's emotional state. The game versus Ohio at a nearly empty Vanderbilt Stadium will pay dividends here. Bryce Perkins's time on the JUCO circuit, where sparse crowds are the norm, will give him valuable experience in this type of atmosphere too.
It's clear that Bronco has a great deal of respect for the Duke program and Coach Cutcliffe. He'll have the ear of the team and they will not overlook Duke. The experience at Vandy and the young, energetic coaches on UVA's staff should have the team ready to go.
This area is still a concern but the expectation is that the team handles it well.
Duke, as evidenced by their 5-1 record, is a good team. The odds makers have them as the definitive favorite in this game. It's certainly not an unreasonable position.
UVA, on the other hand, is 2-0 versus Duke under Bronco. They've also won three games in a row against the Blue Devils reaching back to the Mike London era.
I can see a mini shootout breaking loose or a defensive struggle like the Miami game developing. Based on the offensive lines for each team and the quality of the defenses on the field, I expect something closer to the latter.
UVA continues its mastery of Daniel Jones. They pull this one out 21 to 20.