Week 11 is in the books with the Hoos scrapping out a win over an upstart Georgia Tech. Time to recap the victory and reevaluate both the coming week and remaining road ahead:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
I like winning. I don't care if it's a blowout or a nailbiter; wins feel good and all look the same in the standings.
Ignore GT's record [for the record, it's 2-7 (1-5)]; the Jackets have been a tough out for everyone the last month or so, having won at Miami, playing Pitt tough, and showing up (hey, that's big for GT this year) in losses to Duke and UNC.
GT quarterback James Graham was making some incredibly atypical throws for him. His accuracy, especially on deep balls, was very good, even when his receivers were covered. This guy was abysmal vs Pitt the week prior (3/13 for 57 yards) but the redshirt freshman has potential and showed it in this one.
With that said, GT clearly had a game plan to go after our depleted secondary. Reminder that in addition to preseason losses of Darrius Bratton, Germane Crowell, and Myles Robinson, the Hoos also had season-ending losses of Byce Hall, Antonio Clary, and Brenton Nelson in the last month. Add in a game-ending injury for Chris Moore and post-injury rust for a returning Heskin Smith (missed the last four games, barely practiced this week), and it's not crazy that we might struggle in coverage.
Because the Hoos were so worried about pass coverage, the coaches took bodies out of the box and put less pressure on the line of scrimmage, manifesting itself in the zero sacks registered, only two tackles for loss, and the five yards per carry allowed to both Graham and RB Jordan Mason. With pass-heavy attacks still to come from Liberty and VT, it's open for debate whether the Hoos will revert to more of a pressure defense and take their chances on the back end going forward.
Nice to see the defense settle down in the second half, however, and go 25 minutes without allowing a GT score, a span that allowed the offense to flip a 4 point deficit into a 12 point lead.
Regarding that depleted secondary, assuming Moore is back in action, the Hoos have the bye week and a worthwhile (but winnable) test vs Liberty to get its remaining DBs ready for Black Friday: Remaining are corners Nick Grant (RS Jr), Heskin Smith (RS So), DJ Pratt (RS So, converted from WR this year), Jaylon Baker (RS Fr), and Tenyeh Dixon (Fr), along with safeties Joey Blount (Jr), Chris Moore (RS Jr), De'Vante Cross (RS Jr), and Joseph White (RS Fr). Are they Bryce Hall? No. But you can win with that core.
Offense looked strong again. No turnovers for the second week in a row was great to see. Need to keep that up more than most anything, especially if our defense isn't going to be as consistently ball-hawking as it might've once been.
OL looked okay again today. 2 sacks and 5 TFL's allowed, which is baseline acceptable. But GT is not a great pressure team, 13th in the ACC in sacks/game, so it's hard to get warm fuzzies just yet.
Another huge day for Perkins, both in the air and on the ground. He's not being given the most complicated progressions to go through, and I like how Anae is giving him a manageable playbook for him, but still being very diverse in assigning him primary targets. The breakout of Terrell Jana and continued usage of Kelly, Kemp (he looked GREAT on that 1st half touchdown that got called back), and Cowley forces defenses to scheme away from Dubois and Reed, and really opens up the field for Perkins' legs.
Of course another subpar usage day for the running backs. Have to just accept that, for this year at least, we're not a workhorse back team. We have been in recent years, we likely will be again as soon as next year, but for this year we're a spread passing attack almost purely. With two straight plus games from the offense, hard to argue. 38 points against UNC and 33 points against GT (Bronco's success threshold is 24 points, recall), neither game was the offense very much aided by defensive / special teams-gifted short fields.
A couple penalties I didn't like, but overall 6 for 49 yards isn't terrible. Special Teams had another good day, and Tavares Kelly (giving Joe Reed a rest at KOR) looked very much the part of next year's starter.
As much as I would've liked the blowout, there's something about UVA getting experience in close games that I appreciate. Something tells me it's a skill set that may be required yet again this month.
Depth Chart Moves
Bye week means no depth chart update this week.
Coastal Power Rankings
Big weekend for the Coastal as it scored two wins over the Atlantic (Miami over Louisville, Virginia Tech over Wake), though it only served to further crowd the top of pecking order and drag the title conversation out past Thanksgiving:
1. Virginia (Prev: 1) - 7-3 (5-2) - Hoos stay in the driver's seat with their hard-fought win. With the second-best record in the ACC, the Hoos still have one more big mountain to climb if it wants to finish the season in this top spot.
2. VT (Prev: 3) - 6-3 (3-2) - The Hokies continue to move up these rankings with their third straight conference win, this time a head-turning upset of a ranked Wake Forest. Tech is finding its stride at the right time, on both sides of the ball, and a win over GT this week sets up Black Friday as a potential winner-take-all game for the Division.
3. Pitt (Prev: 2) - 6-3 (3-2) - The Panthers have continued to fly below the radar, getting bowl eligible last weeked, with a packed slate to close the year: UNC, @VT, and BC. They could finish atop the division or as low as 6th. For now they're playing well enough to be considered top-half.
4. Miami (Prev: 5) - 6-4 (4-3) - The Canes still need to atone for some early season losses to UNC and GT, but they've looked sharp of late, cleanly dispatching Atlantic assignments FSU and Louisville. They need a lot to go their way in the coming weeks, but with only Duke left on their ACC schedule, they could tiebreaker their way into a division title.
5. North Carolina (Prev: 4) - 4-5 (3-3) - UNC got a bye this week to prep for it's mid-week trip to Pittsburgh. UNC, despite all the hype this year, still needs wins to get to bowl eligibility, and while not technically mathmatically eliminated, can't be thinking big like the Division yet. That home loss to UVA was a backbreaker.
6. Duke (Prev: 6) - 4-5 (2-3) - Duke loses to Notre Dame? No big deal. But losing 38-7 in Durham? The Devils are trending downward quickly, and a bowl game looks far less likely. Their game hosting Syracuse this Saturday is a must-win.
7. GT (Prev: 7) - 2-7 (1-5) - The Jackets are improving, and while the final record will be painful (they've still got a ritual pasting at the hands of UGA coming), they're at least trending in the right direction over the course of the year. This isn't the same team that lost to the Citadel in September.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
The Hoos are off this week and you're free to use your weekend however you see fit. Should you choose to check in on other relevant ACC games, you've got a few to choose from.
North Carolina at Pittsburgh - 8:00 PM Eastern - ESPN: Big Coastal implications in this prime time matchup. A UNC loss and they're not only out of the ACC Coastal chase, but also on life support for bowl eligibility. Pitt needs to win to stay in the Coastal hunt; a loss to UNC and they'd need a lot of tiebreaker help.
#24 Navy at #15 Notre Dame - 2:30 PM Eastern - NBC: One of the best rivalries in college football that's about all the right things (read this excellent story on their shared history), this year gets a little extra shine with the Midshipmen coming to South Bend ranked.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech - 3:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network Extra: Virginia Tech should be fine in this one, but GT has looked somewhat improved of late. Hokies need this win to keep pace with UVA in the division, while GT is looking for a November win to hang their hat on going into a long offseason.
#19 Wake Forest at #5 Clemson - 3:30 PM Eastern - ABC: This lost some luster when VT upset the Deacons last week, but Wake is the last, best regular season hope to knock Clemson out of the College Football Playoff.
Syracuse at Duke - 4:00 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Duke's shot at the division basically comes down to winning out, needing UVA/VT/Pitt to each lose, and then rolling dice on tiebreakers. But even moreso, Duke just needs a win to get back to .500 in the hopes of making a bowl.
#9 Oklahoma at #12 Baylor - 7:30 PM Eastern - ABC: Baylor is 8-0, one of only a few remaining undefeated, yet sits outside the Top 10. Waco will be rocking as the Bears get their shot at a Big XII heavyweight, trying to become the league's first non-Oklahoma team to make the CFP.
The Remaining Schedule
Saturday, Nov 23 - Liberty: Win confidence 8 - Dropping the win confidence from 9 to 8 here on the concerns in UVA's secondary. The Flames have a bye week this week as well, and will utilize their well-tuned Air Raid offense to attack the Hoos' injury-plaged corners and safeties.
Friday, Nov 29 - Virginia Tech: Win confidence 5 - Despite UVA having the slight edge in record, Hokies are trending in the right direction right now, and the strength of their attack (the passing game with Hendon Hooker under center) matches up well with the Hoos' secondary depth issues. Should be another stressful Black Friday.
Predicted final record: 8-4 (5-3)