Week 13 is in the books with the Hoos getting a comfortable win over Liberty. Time to recap the win and take one last look at the rest of the Division:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
Virginia has hit eight wins in Novemer for the first time in eight years. The last time we did so was when we picked up our 8th win in Tallahassee in 2011. That's momentus.
I caution the jaded among us from considering the opponent this past weekend as "Just Liberty." As far as mid-major FBS teams go, they're a solid one. That offense was legit with Buckshot Calvert at QB and Hugh Freeze calling the shots.
The defense played pretty well. Had a rough stretch there on back-to-back possessions end of the 1st quarter / start of the 2nd. On both scoring drives, Calvert attacked CB Heskin Smith who got beat over the top on two long balls. He played much better after that though.
Three sacks on the day by our defense which is fine. Mostly a conservative blitz scheme (likely not trying to show much on tape to VT), purely DL and the linebackers, mostly inside. Outside LBs spent more time in coverage.
Would've liked to have seen a more full-strength secondary with Chris Moore's suspension looming, moving Heskin Smith into the starting lineup and moving Cross back to Free Safety. The position groups continue to be a game of musical chairs.
Offense was solid and effective. As much as was made of the potential challenge of facing Liberty's spread passing attack, there was never much worry that our offense would struggle against Liberty's defense. They don't pressure a ton (though giving up 3 sacks wasn't great), and their back 7 was certainly less talented than we're used to seeing in the ACC.
Running attack looked good, but I'd expect it to against Liberty. No Taulapapa meant good reps for Kier, Atkins, and Hollins, though makes Friday's backfield situation more of a question mark than you'd like.
No real wrinkles in the passing attack this week. Looked fine.
Didn't like that blown 4th down in the 2nd quarter. First of all, no excuse not to pick up the 1st down on 3rd and 3. Going for it on 4th and 2 at midfield was more risky than I like.
The fake FG... loved it. For those wondering why we used it vs Liberty as opposed to saving it for VT, maybe it was to give Fuente some pause in sending the house on kick block attempts. I doubt VT will be dissuaded, though.
B+ game for the special teams. Another game where Reed abdicated his KOR responsibilities to rest while we got to see rookie Seneca Milledge make his debut. He looked great, and along with Kelly make a fine tandem for the future years. Didn't like the long KOR return allowed in the 2nd quarter which enabled one last good shot to score before halftime (defense blessedly held).
Nice to get a bad weather game under our belts in case Saturday's game weather forecast changes for the worse (current 50 degrees and clear, but rain Saturday). VT got that experience too.
Not sure why we still saw Perkins in up 3 touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Bad enough if he was just handing the ball off, but to see him take a carry seemed excessive. Glad he got out by the next possession.
Great appearance by Brennan Armstrong, and that throw to Wicks was beautiful. Future looks pretty good.
One more home game for a small but elite cadre of seniors: Jordan Mack, Bryce Hall, Myles Robinson, Reed Kellam, Eli Hanback, Richard Burney, Bryce Perkins, Chris Sharp, Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois, Terrell Chatman, Dejon Brissett, and Tanner Cowley. Let's send them out right.
Depth Chart Moves
No changes to the depth chart from last week, which is good on the surface. Two questions remain with players listed here that missed the Liberty game. First is Taulapapa, who is expected to play Friday but isn't a sure thing. Second is Chris Moore who was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules; in the Monday press conference Bronco was noncommittal as to Moore's availability Friday.
Coastal Power Rankings
Another week, not much shakeup yet again as only Miami's inexplicable upset loss shuffles the board:
1. VT (Prev: 1) - 8-3 (5-2) - The Hokies have won their last two games (@GT, Pitt) by a combined score of 73-0 (and scored the last 23 points of their win over WF to boot, meaning they've on a 96 point shutout streak right now over the last 9+ quarters). They're rolling by all objective measures. A win Friday should be enough for an Orange Bowl berth.
2. Virginia (Prev: 2) - 8-3 (5-2) - By all objective measures, UVA sitting at 8 wins right now is great. It's been 8 years since we went into the final game with a record this good, and it's continued measurable progress for Mendenhall's tenure. In a couple days, we'll see if one last corner has been turned.
3. Pitt (Prev: 3) - 7-4 (4-3) - Pitt made a sort-of-controversial decision this past offseason to bring in Mark Whipple as the new OC and ditch their traditional power-run identity in favor of a spread passing attack. This week, we saw in full why that was stupid, as in a typical cold/wet/sloppy late November game in the mid-Atlantic, Pitt's finesse offense was out of sync the entire game, costing them a shot at the Coastal.
4. North Carolina (Prev: 5) - 5-6 (3-4) - UNC took a step towards bowl eligibility this week with a 56-7 pasting of Mercer. Nothing much to glean from this game. Tar Heels have a must-win vs 4-7 NC State this weekend to get bowl eligible.
5. Miami (Prev: 4) - 6-5 (4-3) - I mean, seriously, WTF Miami? You were on fire lately, riding a three game winning streak over Pitt, FSU, and Louisville. The corner looked turned. And then you go and lose to Florida International? Coming off a bye week no less. Inexcusable.
6. Duke (Prev: 6) - 4-7 (2-5) - With a 39-27 loss to in-state rival Wake Forest, the Devils were eliminated from bowl contention. Not much else to add in what's been an overall disappointing season for Duke. They're playing for pride against Miami this weekend.
7. GT (Prev: 7) - 3-8 (2-6) - With UGA awaiting the Jackets next weekend, this past Thursday's game vs NC State was important for GT's psyche. Against a Wolf Pack that needed that win for bowl eligibility, GT got off to a fast start and held off a late rally for a 2 point win. It's a small confidence builder going into the offseason.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
Let's be honest, we really only care about one game this weekend, and that's at noon on Friday. Your appetite for non-UVA games quite likely hinges on how you're feeling after ours is completed. If you are up for a few more games beyond the Commonwealth Cup, here are your options in a typically loaded rivalry week slate:
#19 Cincinatti at #18 Memphis - 3:30 PM Eastern - ABC: Immediately following the conlusion of our game is a clash of 10-1 ranked AAC teams. Not much impact on the national picture (neither of these teams are CFP contenders) but possibly a really entertaining one nonetheless.
#2 Ohio State at #13 Michigan - 12:00 PM Eastern - Fox: Ordinarily I dislike both of these programs, but it's a meaningful rivalry regardless. Ohio State has already locked up the B1G East's title, and would probably back into a CFP berth with a B1G Championship win even with a loss here. Still, let's have UM pull off the upset and find out.
#3 Clemson at South Carolina - 12:00 PM Eastern - ESPN: On paper this is Clemson's game to run away with. But it's a rivalry game in enemy territory and USC (4-7) did already knock off UGA this year. Clemson making the CFP is good for the ACC as a whole.
Miami at Duke - 3:30 PM Eastern - ESPN2: This is strictly a pride game as the Canes are bowl eligible and the Devils are bowl eliminated. On paper this is Miami's to lose. But on the other hand, it's Cutcliffe coaching against Diaz. If Miami can lose both to GT and FIU, they can lose to Duke.
BC at Pitt - 3:30 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Pitt's got a letdown effect to contend with after blowing their shot so spectacularly against VT. Sitting at 7 wins, guaranteed a bowl yet eliminated from the division, they really have nothing to gain here. BC however has bowl eligibility on the line.
#5 Alabama at #15 Auburn - 3:30 PM Eastern - CBS: The Iron Bowl is always a must-watch game. This one's for pride only as LSU has already claimed the SEC West title, but pride's more than enough for the energy level to be electric.
#12 Wisconsin vs #10 Minnesota - 3:30 PM Eastern - ABC: The Gophers look to cap off their magical regular season run and cement their place in the B1G title game in this clash with border rival Wisconsin, who with a win would claim B1G West berth by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker.
North Carolina at NC State - 7:00 PM Eastern - ACC Network: Tar Heels have bowl eligibility on the line in this cross-town clash. The Wolfpack were eliminated in their loss to GT last week, but may find solace if they can do the same to UNC. Could be a fun clash of ACC middleweights.
The Remaining Schedule
Friday, Nov 29 - Virginia Tech: Win confidence 4.5 - One game, winner take all for the division. Once upon a time this game looked a lot better for UVA, but VT is playing with incredible momentum and UVA's secondary is still a question mark. I'll bet on the Hoos in this series one day, but still gun shy at the moment.
Predicted final record: 8-4 (5-3)