Thursday, October 29, 2009

game preview: Duke



Date/Time: October 31, 3:30

TV: ESPN 360 (so, not actually TV)

Last matchup: Duke 31, UVA 3 (I most emphatically do not have highlights)

Last week: GT 34, UVA 9; Duke 17, Md. 13

Line: UVA by 7.5

Opposing blogs: none, really.

Injury report

(I always forget this. I probably shouldn't even bother. Tomorrow for sure.)

Al Groh is many things, and among them is this: Master of the Completely Improbable. We have both wins and losses of that variety. And not many of them have been more improbable than what happened last year against this team. Losing would have been surprising enough. Losing that way.....well, Al Groh's legacy will be stuffed full of games that didn't go the way they were supposed to. It would be really nice to erase the memory of last year with a nice result this year.

And I scarcely need mention that this is basically an elimination game for our bowl hopes.

HOW WE CAN WIN

- As Al Groh pointed out, Duke is a pass-first team. That's more out of necessity than anything, if you ask me. They can't run the ball. Can not run the ball. Take away the NCCU game (against a 1-6 I-AA team) and they're averaging 1.6 yards a carry. So I'm taking it for granted (dangerous, but I will anyway) that our defensive line will chew up and spit out their running game. That puts the onus on our secondary to shut down their receivers. Fortunately, we have some pretty good players back there, too.

- Take advantage of big opportunities. I think our defense will give us a few. I'm not sure the offense can capitalize. They will have to, or we'll be ripe for an upset.

- Jameel Sewell needs to take over the game. Duke's passing defense is the weak point on that side of the ball. They're giving up 7.8 yards per attempt, and that's having played stunningly brilliant offenses like Maryland, NCCU, and Army. We may or may not be able to run the ball, but if we can't take advantage of their porous pass offense with the worst pass rush in the ACC, the game will stay way too close for comfort.

HOW WE CAN LOSE

- Let the game stay close by not doing any of the above. A good passing offense like Duke has is just the thing for breaking hearts with a really badly timed big play. Don't need any of that.

- Get outcoached. Look. Our players are better than their players, for the most part. But David Cutcliffe got tricks. He's a hell of an offensive mind and has quite a few players he can throw the ball to. Duke doesn't have a Torrey Smith or a C.J. Spiller for the defense to focus on, which strikes me as a dangerous combination with a coach who's known for being an offensive smart guy. The thing I worry about most about this game, besides our entire offense, is that Cutcliffe will be able to keep our defense guessing and off balance all game.

HOW THE GAME WILL GO

We'll win. I hate saying that, because it too often makes me look like a dumbass. But we're going to win this game, and there are two reasons. One, we're better on paper. Georgia Tech's defense looked deceptively bad because they'd played a bunch of good teams. Duke's looks bad and that's from games against Army and Maryland and such. Their running game is unbelievably atrocious. They likely won't hardly even bother, just come out passing the ball, and we have the best pass defense in the ACC, giving up just 5 yards per attempt. They're playing right into our strength.

Second, because win games like this is just the sort of thing we do. Duke has more wins than we do and it's making people think they're better and say crazy things. To the lay observer, it looks like an even-ish matchup between a couple pretty bad teams, and it's tempting to go with the one whose program doesn't look like it's hanging by a thread. No dice. This is UVA football, and we're going to win this game for the purpose of toying with the fans. Those whose primary desire is wanting Al Groh gone are going to enjoy the win** but be frustrated at the continuing possibility that Groh might extricate himself from this predicament yet again. Those who, like me, enjoy their blue and orange kool-aid, are going to be teased with the continuing possibility that we might just get into a bowl game despite having an offense that can't tell one end zone from the other. We win this game because UVA football exists for the purpose of driving its fans crazy.

**I hope there are none of you fuckers out there who root for us to lose because you want Groh gone or think things like "a loss is a win."

REST OF THE ACC

North Carolina at Virginia Tech, right now

NC State at Florida State, 12:00
Clemson vs. Coastal Carolina, 1:30
Miami at Wake Forest, 3:30
Boston College vs. Central Michigan, 3:30
Georgia Tech at Vanderbilt, 7:30

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