Week 4 is in the books with an uneven win over the Monarchs, and it's time to take a quick look back at the takeaways from the game and reevaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
A win's a win, right? Heck, it's a double digit win. Why are we complaining?
The defense's early struggles are 100% fixable. A couple of assignment issues, some sloppy tackling. Considering how little those problems showed up in the first three games, and how quickly they were corrected for the last 40 minutes of the game vs the Monarchs, we'll write it off.
Have yourself a day, Mr Snowden. 15 tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFLs. Wow
Studs abound on defense. Not sure where the weak link is. Safeties were a little hot/cold vs ODU, but over four games they've been solid. I guess if I'm nitpicking the coverages responsibilities downfield have gotten mixed up at times, sooner or later a good QB is gonna connect on one of those. But that's only if he hasn't been sacked first, and last time I checked we lead the nation in sacks right now.
Placekicking, still an issue. It's not on Delaney, not this time, as the OL just whiffed on the FG block. Bottom line, as a unit, the placekicking operation continues to underwhelm after a hot start against Pitt.
Can you tell I'm stalling on talking about the offense?
Joe Reed as a kick returner is a joy to watch. We're going to miss him next year.
The offensive line, okay, ugh. Look, I've beaten the "Patience" drum for the OL as loudly as anyone, any I can understand occasional struggles against Pitt's well coached and veteran front 7 (it's about the only thing Narduzzi truly excels at), or FSU's collection of 4- and 5-stars. But ODU is another story. We were unable to consistently open up running lanes, and they managed 2 sacks and 5 TFLs.
It's regressed from last year. Fieler, Applefield, and Proctor were legit ACC linemen. Maybe not future pros or all-conference quality, but perfectly solid. I really want to give the coaches the benefit of the doubt that Proctor leaving was the right choice for the locker room, but god his absence is felt.
WTF was Leech doing in there? The true freshman was overmatched, not physically ready. Why have Devine as the backup RT on the depth chart if you're just going to plug in a rookie instead?
Really need Vic healthy. He's a good center. His absence would be painful.
I get that injuries played a role in the musical chairs on the OL this week, but let's be honest, Tujague has been unable to pick a lineup since the summer. He spent most of the fall camp with one lineup (L-R of Nelson, Glaser, Vic, Reinkensmeyer, Swoboda) only to abandon that the week before the Pitt game to go Swoboda, Nelson, Vic, Glaser, Reinkensmeyer, and then after Swoboda proved incredibly not ready started rotating Haskins in. And since then, it's been one change after another. No one can get comfortable, master their assignments, etc. Last year 2J kept the lineup basically the same all season, the only changes coming when Proctor was hurt and healthy again. The stability was beneficial. This year, it almost feels like it's getting worse through the year.
Some missed blocking assignments by the backs and tight ends too. Blame to go around I guess.
Impossible to make any intelligent comments on the rest of the offense because, to me, the blocking at the line of scrimmage is preventing the rest of the offense from getting into a rhythm.
Anyways, you know what's fixable? 15-yard penalties. Think I counted four of them. Stop it, Hoos, it's going to cost you a game vs better teams.
Enough whining from me. There's a toughness and resiliency factor to talk about with UVA's ability to come back from down three scores to win by two scores. You'd like to play from out in front all the time, and you may not find comebacks so easy against power conference teams, but it's still a nice thing to see.
House money game at South Bend. Not that I'm not excited for Saturday vs the Irish. But what matters most to me is getting to the bye week healthy and prepping for Miami in a few weeks, where a win could really solidify UVA's place in the driver's seat for the Division.
Depth Chart Moves
The depth chart continues to provide zero clues to what's really going on. Brennan Armstrong is still missing with his toe injury, and that could drag on awhile, as they tend to nag. The O-Line shows both Vic and Fannin at center, though neither is a sure bet to play this week. And Jonathan Leech is absent again despite his jumping Devine last week. Defense and special teams look the same as last week.
Coastal Power Rankings
1. Virginia (Prev: 1) - 4-0 (2-0) - A tough win over a C-USA visitor is a win nonetheless. As questions abound around the rest of the division, the Hoos get credit for being the lone consistent winner to date.
2. Pitt (Prev: 5) - 2-2 (0-1) - Well look at the Panthers, back from the brink, having played Penn State to the wire and knocking off ranked G5 powerhouse UCF. Their 2-2 record is unimpressive, but no one in D-1 has had to play 3 ranked opponents out of the gate. They get a quiet week (Delaware) before resuming ACC play in October.
3. Duke (Prev: 4) - 2-1 (0-0) - A bye week for the Devils gives Cutliffe time to put in some final wrinkles before they open ACC play this week in Blacksburg. Duke is still a question mark, but how they fare vs VT will tell us a lot. In the interim, they move up mostly because others moved down
4. North Carolina (Prev: 2) - 2-2 (1-0) - Appalachian State is a quality mid-major, though Carolina definitely wishes they'd won it. Every game so far has come down to the final possessions. They're the only other team with a winning ACC record, though.
5. Miami (Prev: 3) - 2-2 (0-1) - The Canes were surprisingly inept offensively against visiting Central Michigan, winning by only a few points. Great defense, bad offense, they get a bye week now to work on things before diving into more conference play.
6. VT (Prev: 6) - 2-1 (0-1) - When Duke visits this weekend, we'll see if Fuente has figured out what's held the Hokies back in tough games vs Furman and ODU. A win over the Devils will soothe a lot of concerned fans.
7. GT (Prev: 7) - 1-2 (0-1) - Expect the Jackets to stay in this spot for most, if not all, of the season. The loss to the Citadel showed that Georgia Tech fans are going to be thinking long and hard about next year all fall.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
Another quiet weekend, both in the ACC and nationally. Miami has a bye, and Pitt and GT are in uninteresting pairings. The national slate ranks any heavyweight clashes outside of our trip to South Bend.
Duke at Virginia Tech - 7:00 PM Eastern - ESPN: Not a lot of intra-Coastal matchups to date so far, but this will be an excellent early litmus test for racking-and-stacking the Division. Both teams are coming off a bye, so expect each team to be sharp and hungry.
Clemson at North Carolina - 3:30 PM Eastern - ABC: At the same time as our game, this shouldn't be much of a contest, but it will be interesting to flip over to during our commercial breaks to at least see if UNC has the horses to keep it interesting.
Wake Forest at Boston College - 3:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Wake is making their case to be a third nationally ranked ACC power, and a conference road win against the uneven but dangerous Eagles would go a long way to cementing their status at the Atlantic's biggest relative threat to Clemson.
NC State at Florida State - 7:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Mostly just intriguing to ACC old-timers who enjoy this rivalry even absent the implications to UVA's Coastal standings.
The Remaining Schedule
Saturday, Sept 28 - at #7 Notre Dame: Win confidence 2.5 - The poor play of the offense vs Old Dominion causes concerns as the Hoos hit the road against an Irish team that just went to the wire with title-contender Georgia. Defense should keep the Hoos in it early but offense is going to need to take it up a notch.
Friday, Oct 11 - at Miami: Win confidence 6.5 - The Canes do look mortal, and Virginia has had some limited success in South Florida in the past. Virginia's D should feast, but their defense should similarly keep it a low-scoring game all around, where a random turnover could turn the tide.
Saturday, Oct 19 - Duke: Win confidence 7.5 - No change here; Duke is still a question mark until they start playing teams in their weight class, and UVA has won four straight in the series. Being at home, UVA should be the favorite here.
Saturday, Oct 26 - at Louisville: Win confidence 6.5 - The Cards showed a heartbeat in a sorta-but-sorta-not-close loss to the Seminoles. Satterfield is doing his best to right the ship, but he's got a little ways to go. They'll play us hard, however, and will be at home, possibly desperate to maintain a shot at bowl eligibility.
Saturday, Nov 2 - at North Carolina: Win confidence 6 - A loss to App State shows UNC's resurgence is a work in progress. They'll be somewhere between 3-5 and 5-3 when the Hoos visit Chapel Hill, and the Hoos will need to be sharp to get the road win.
Saturday, Nov 9 - Georgia Tech: Win confidence 9 - The Jackets are already breaking down, and by November will likely will just be wishing for the season to end. UVA will be in prime position to help them take one step closer to the offseason.
Saturday, Nov 23 - Liberty: Win confidence 9 - A big win over Hampton doesn't change the fact that the Flames will just be overmatched against UVA, especially the Hoo defense. With a bye week to boot, UVA should coast in this.
Friday, Nov 29 - Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5 - We'll learn a lot more about the Hokies in the coming weeks with Coastal rivals Duke and Miami on top the next two weekends. So until we know more, we have to go on the streak, and that means it's at best a 50/50 bet.
Predicted final record: 9-3 (6-2)