Thursday, September 9, 2010

game preview: USC

Date/Time: Saturday, September 11; 10:30 PM


History against the Trojans: 0-1

Last matchup: USC 52, UVA 7; 8-30-2008

Last week: UVA 34, Richmond 13; USC 49, Hawaii 36

Line: USC by 19.5

Opposing blogs: Conquest Chronicles

Injury report: none, but Rodney McLeod isn't on the depth chart

This week's uniform: white jersey, orange pants

USC season preview

Ever wonder what it's like to be a MAC school in the early season? Now's your chance. Saturday's game will played in a stadium called the Coliseum - fitting, because last week, against Richmond, we were the lions; this week, it's our turn to be the Christians.


- Near-perfection. That's basically what it boils down to. USC is "down" these days, which basically means they're at risk of having a season as poor as UVA's best of the decade. The horror. USC has its weaknesses, but everything in this section assumes that everything UVA does on Saturday is executed to the absolute pinnacle of their ability.

- Healthy Ras-I Dowling. It's a safe bet that UVA has a better defense than Hawaii, which fell outside the top 80 in just about everything last year. So if Ras-I is on the field, I won't sit up nights worrying about USC's receivers not named Ronald Johnson. Johnson is, essentially, a terrific possession receiver who can also stretch the field a bit (though if there's a play missing from the USC arsenal, it's probably the deep bomb) and it'll take a big, athletic corner like Dowling to keep him silent. Chase Minnifield is good but probably not good enough to shut down Johnson. But he and the rest of the secondary can handle the rest of the USC passing attack reasonably well if Dowling is on the field.

- Have a field day through the air. Establishing the ground game against Richmond was a lot of fun, but it won't consistently work here. This isn't I-AA anymore and USC's linebackers are too good to let UVA control the clock with Keith Payne and Perry Jones. The weak point of USC's defense is the secondary, which couldn't come up with a single turnover against Hawaii and let the Warriors sling the ball all over the field. The Warrior receivers had big, big days. Run the ball just enough to make USC respect the play-fake, and throw plenty of fade and curl routes to isolate USC's corners against UVA's receivers. If UVA wins, mark my words the receivers will have a lot of fancy stats to their credit.


- Pretty much by not doing everything exactly right. Coming within two touchdowns would be a moral victory, but not an actual one.

- Same ol', same ol' on special teams. Last week was a special teams disaster: lousy punt coverage, two missed field goals because one kicker doesn't have the leg and the other doesn't have the accuracy, and a blown blocking assignment leading to a failed 2PC that was supposed to be a simple PAT. Ronald Johnson ran a punt back for a touchdown against Hawaii and he'll do so again if things don't shape up here. UVA simply can't afford to take points off the board or give up a lightning-strike touchdown.

- Lousy pass-blocking. I take it as a given that the running game won't be as productive as it was last week, and I do think Marc Verica has the ability to connect with his receivers for the necessary yardage. But not if the USC pass rush is in his grill all game. The Trojans will get their points, no doubt about it, so the one thing that can turn an upset into a loss or a loss into a blowout is poor pass-blocking. USC knows how to take advantage of crappy offensive lines and I'm still not convinced ours can hold up for a full 60 minutes.


Probably badly. The WhatIf simulator gives UVA less than a 20% chance of a win, which is actually better than I thought. (Two notes: the preseason simulator gave UVA a 5-7, 2-6 record, which is pretty fair. And WhatIf boasts of an 85% success rate in week 1, which is of debatable impressiveness when everyone was playing the closest patsy they could find.) Anyway, that 20% is a lot better than you might expect, but it's still in shocking upset territory. Which we all knew. Like I said, it would take near-perfect execution from start to finish to pull this one off. More likely is a three-touchdown blowout.


Duke @ Wake Forest, 12:00
Georgia Tech @ Kansas, 12:00
Virginia Tech vs. James Madison, 1:30
Florida State @ Oklahoma, 3:30
Clemson vs. Presbyterian, 3:30
Boston College vs. Kent State, 3:30
Miami @ Ohio State, 3:30
Maryland vs. Morgan State, 6:00
NC State at Central Florida, 7:30

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