Monday, September 30, 2013

weekend review

No review of the weekend's events would be complete without discussing the depth chart changes, so let's get right on that.  In ascending order of importance, these are at tight end, linebacker, wide receiver, O-line, and punt returner.

-- Zach Swanson's lack of presence probably means an injury from which it's going to take a while to come back.  Too bad, because his play early in the season was strong.  But his absence isn't why the offense sucked, either.

-- Demeitre Brim moves from strong-side to weak-side LB.  I think this is a subtle way of saying Max Valles will be on the field more, and that the SLB position is becoming more and more of an extra pass rush than a traditional Sam role.

-- Wide receiver.  "Or" shows up everywhere.  No starters this week except those that earn the job in practice by not screwing up, is how to read that.   My guess is that the de facto impact will be small - for one thing, Darius Jennings's participation in the construction of such an exquisite pile of shit was surprising and probably short-lived.  Here's betting he doesn't drop a thing all week.  The rest I'm not so sure about, so we'll just have to see come game time.

-- And the much-maligned-and-deservedly-so O-line.  The five-best-guys philosophy is on full display with Jay Whitmire moving to the problematic RG position and Eric Smith taking over at tackle.  Cody Wallace moves to LG behind Luke Bowanko, which is code for you'll never see him again because Bowanko is considered one of the rocks.  Wallace just got buried.

I'm less sure what it means that Michael Mooney moves to backup LT - I think that's probably a promotion of sorts.  Sadiq Olanrewaju definitely got promoted; even though he's behind Smith (obviously) that's better than being behind Morgan Moses.  It might seem like Whitmire got demoted (tackle to guard, after all) but it's really more a function of him having a couple years on Smith and therefore being more versatile.

The center battle is back on, too, probably not least because of Burbank's bad snap.

-- Finally we come to punt returner - where no change whatsoever was made.  This is bad in a couple different ways.  Mike London can't be on the accountability train if he's letting slide the single stupidest play of UVA's season so far.  It's fortunate that Dominique Terrell is from northern VA or this would really open the door to 757 favoritism charges.  You had a lot of that undercurrent with Phillip Sims; allowing Terrell's drunken balloon chase to go unaddressed would practically blow those doors open if he were from Chesapeake or something.

The final verdict is that these are generally positive changes taken one by one.  Wallace just has never been an ACC-level lineman.  Putting a week-long microscope on the receivers is a good idea - David Watford has enough trouble finding open receivers without them dropping the throw when he does.  But London's playing Russian roulette with his credibility over what should be a very simple call at PR.  Can't fully trust what he says about fixing problems when he won't fix the most visible one.

FWIW, London has said that will be a practice competition too, but actions are speaking louder than words here.  Until I see someone besides Terrell back there I won't believe it - and really, even then, it shouldn't be a competition, Terrell should simply sit and watch, because he's hurting the team as bad or worse than any other individual, the way he fields kicks.


The ACC didn't produce too much in the way of surprises this week, except in Chapel Hill.  Quick takes on the week's action in the league:

-- UNC is definitely leaving me with egg on my face for picking them to win the Coastal.  ECU racked up 55 points on them, so maybe our offense can score a touchdown or two.

-- Maryland looks better and better each week, even when they don't play.  West Virginia's bounce-back win over Oklahoma State makes the Terps look awfully good.

-- VT's win in the battle of the Techs actually puts them in great shape, with UNC looking like a bunch of chumps and Miami being the only likely roadblock in the Coastal now.

At the one-third mark of the season, it's time to reassess the remaining schedule.  Beating BYU was a great step toward bowl-game respectability; losing to Pitt was almost as big a step back.  The remainder of the season breaks down like so.

Likely wins: Ball State, Duke.  Not "likely" in the traditional sense - just that you can't be a bowl team period if you can't beat those teams.

Likely losses: Miami, Clemson.  These would be the teams that our defense almost certainly can't stop enough for the offense to catch up.

Swing games: Maryland, GT, VT, UNC.  And let's be real, we're not exactly favored in most - or any - of these.  But if we can get past Ball State and Duke, we need only win two of these four.  And all these teams have serious flaws, although if that's true of Maryland, they've yet to be exposed.  Our defense, though, is good enough to at least give us a prayer of seeing a win in all four of these.


Senior Seasons feature:

Peachtree Ridge 49, Habersham Central 0: Jordan Ellis only needed seven carries to have his biggest day of the season - he racked up three touchdowns, two of them on runs of 68 and 73 yards, and finished with 197 yards.  Peachtree Ridge is 5-0.

Episcopal 38, Chichester 20: Evan Butts had three catches for 111 yards.  Episcopal is 5-0.

Upland 42, Santiago 41 (Jeffery Farrar) - Upland is 3-2.
Central Catholic 38, Trinity Catholic 14 (Caanan Brown) - CCC is 4-1.
South Granville 56, Cummings 27 (Will Richardson) - Cummings is 1-5.
Ocean Lakes 49, Bayside 16 (Quin Blanding) - Bayside is 2-3.
Oscar Smith 56, Lakeland 6 (Andrew Brown) - Oscar Smith is 4-0.
Chancellor 37, Millbrook 3 (Steven Moss) - Chancellor is 1-4.
Briar Woods 45, Woodgrove 16 (J.J. Jackson) - Woodgrove is 2-2.

bipolar disorder

I was going to start this post with some variation of "I don't know whether to be happy or pissed off" based on the completely polar-opposite performances by the offense or defense.  Then I realized - duh - we lost.  So the answer to that question is pretty obvious.

Let's get the good stuff out of the way first before we descend into internet RAGE mode.  All of the good stuff is defense-related, obviously.  I really can't say enough what a great job the defense did.  The offense should spend the week bringing room service to the defense and otherwise catering to their every whim, in exchange for the terrible letdown they handed their teammates on Saturday.  Pitt does not have a good offensive line, but still - the domination at the line was a sight to behold.  It wasn't just the seven sacks.  It was the nonexistent Pitt running game, and the pressure on what must have been two of every three of Tom Savage's dropbacks.

The coverage deserves a hand, too.  Savage had 191 passing yards and would've had less than half that if not for some absurdly good NFL throws.  Several of his completions were despite beautiful coverage - and against two of the ACC's best receivers.  Between the total ownership of the line of scrimmage and the excellent pass coverage, I have nothing whatsoever to say against the defense and can't find enough words of praise to heap upon their performance.

I really wish, though, that I'd thought of Jerry Ratcliffe's line about Dominique Terrell before Ratcliffe thought of it - specifically, he called Terrell's punt-catching decisions "like watching a drunk chase a balloon near the edge of a cliff."  You just don't usually get that kind of color from the media and it's a shame.  I might have said "off a cliff" because that's where Terrell seems to want to send his team's fortunes.  At this point I've given up hope that Terrell will ever be a smart player, and it's just amazing to hear London talk about things like accountability and at the same time continue to put Terrell and his idiotically adventuresome decision-making skills out there in the spotlight.

So let's talk about our offense.

It's not so much that David Watford makes bad decisions.  He just doesn't make any decisions.  Occasionally, very occasionally, he keeps on a read option.  When passing, he waits for his first-option receiver to get to the point on the route where Watford should throw the ball, and then throws it.  Coverage be damned.

I really don't want to single out one person, though.  The offensive line blocked like shit.  Steve Fairchild called a shit game.  And on the rare occasions where Watford made neither a shit throw nor a shit decision, his receivers took a shit.

I have two main bitches about Fairchild.  One, God kills a baby angel every time an offensive coordinator runs a toss sweep or option play to the short side of the field.  Two baby angels if he does it on fourth down.  That is setting your offense up to fail, plain and simple.  Two, continually calling run plays directly at Aaron Donald.  I don't know whose fault it was that Donald kept being single-blocked, but there's never a good reason to run right at the best player on the defense regardless of how many blockers there are.

"Soul-searching" is probably the wrong word for what needs to happen in offensive meetings between now and next Saturday.  Imodium-searching might be more productive so the offense can stop taking a big diarrhea-shit all over the field.  Maybe someone can teach Watford that he has more than one receiver to throw to - or else just put nine guys in protection.  Maybe someone can teach the offensive line to stay between the defender and the ball.  Maybe someone can put stickum on the hands of the receivers.  For some really stupid reason UVA starts as a five-point favorite against Ball State - which puts a lot of faith in the offense to score more than five points.

Brief other stuff:

-- If the offense spends the week fetching water for the defense, they can include Alec Vozenilek in their rounds for the 77-yard punt that bailed them out from shitting around inside their own ten.

-- I'm not mad at London for going for it on fourth and almost-goal, down 14-3.  Anyone suggesting we should have kicked the field goal is saying that the offense would've been able to actually move the ball again.  That one drive included over 40% of the yards the offense gained the entire game.  77 of their 188 total yards.  What's easier: scoring a touchdown from the three yard line or your own 20?

-- It's possible, maybe probable, that Eric Tetlow is a better player than Cody Wallace right now.

-- The maddening thing about all the drops is that so many of them came from what are supposed to be our best receivers.  Two each, I think, from Jake McGee and Darius Jennings.  Settin' the example.

-- Piling on Dom Terrell a little bit more, how about this: we win if Terrell doesn't try to chase down that punt.  Even if the offense had gone three-and-out, they'd likely have ended up punting, putting Pitt in no position to score.  They don't score, they don't kick off and pin us deep where a bad snap gives Pitt the ball in the red zone again.  Just keep trading punts and eventually the turnovers our defense generated would've let us get a field goal here and there, and the Panthers likely would've been shut out.

Prediction review:

Before we start, I'm just gonna say that I'm not taking responsibility for bad predictions this week.  I'll still track 'em, but c'mon.  I deserve a break when the offense is more preoccupied with taking a shit than with moving the ball.

-- Daniel Hamm outgains Khalek Shepherd.  Null prediction as London mentioned Hamm left the game early with an injury.  I think minus that I would've gotten it, though, because Shepherd was in for just one series.

-- Watford manages about six yards per pass.  He got 3.3.  He might have made it to six without the drops.

-- Watford also contributes at least 30 yards on the ground.  He actually gained 50 yards going forward and lost 35 to sacks and shitty snaps.  I'm claiming this one as a win since his contribution to the running game was much bigger than previously, even against VMI, and it's not his fault his O-line politely allowed Aaron Donald and his DT cohorts to get all up in his stuff every other pass.

-- Aaron Donald and Eli Harold are the only players on either team to register a sack.  I actually got this half right.  One Pitt sack - a fumbled snap - was considered a "team" sack, and Donald got their other two.  I didn't really foresee the ass-kicking the rest of our line would deliver, though, and Max Valles deserves special recognition for making prophets out of the defensive coaches that put him way high on the depth chart.

-- UVA is able to keep Pitt's running game in check, with no more than four yards a carry.  If you include sacks, Pitt totaled eight yards on the ground.  Not including sacks they still got crushed, with only 2.2 yards a carry.  Niiiiice.

-- If both Tyler Boyd and Devin Street have fewer than 100 receiving yards apiece, UVA wins.  Null prediction as Boyd gathered in 111 receiving yards.  That's not why we lost, though.

Take away the two nulls and I actually went two-for-four.  8-for-20 is the season total, and since I predicted a win, I drop to 2-2 both real-time and ATS in the game-prediction department.  I should get another loss just for assuming the offense was a real offense, but that's not how this works.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

game preview: Pittsburgh

Date/Time: Saturday, September 28; 12:30


Record against the Panthers: 2-3

Last meeting: UVA 44, Pitt 14; 9/29/07, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA 49, VMI 0; Pitt 58, Duke 55

Line: Pitt by 5

Injury report:


OUT - G George Adeosun, G Conner Davis, G Jack McDonald, TE Mario Nixon, TE Zach Swanson, SS Wilfred Wahee


QUESTIONABLE - RB Taquan Mizzell

PROBABLE - WR Miles Gooch, RB Khalek Shepherd

OUT - DB Cullen Christian, DE Devin Cook, OL Gabe Roberts

DOUBTFUL - DE Bryan Murphy



Time to get the ACC schedule underway.  It's Pitt's first season in the conference, but the opponent isn't totally unfamiliar; these teams have met three times in the past decade or so.  Matt Schaub led the Hoos to a win in what remains the only UVA bowl game I've seen in person, and UVA and Pitt played a home-and-home a few years later in which the teams traded crowd-pleasing blowouts.  This promises to be an interesting series in years to come, since both teams would love to establish a strong presence on each others' home recruiting turf.  For this season, though, it's two teams that could make a bowl game but face an uphill battle to do so - the winner will be halfway to their goal.

-- UVA run offense vs. Pitt run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 56 carries, 260 yards, 4.6 ypc, 3 TD
Daniel Hamm: 21 carries, 136 yards, 6.5 ypc, 2 TD

UVA offense:
196.67 yards/game, 4.10 yards/attempt
82nd of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

Pitt defense:
194 yards/game, 4.77 yards/attempt
94th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

One thing I totally failed to notice from last week's game is that Cody Wallace made the start at RG in place of Conner Davis, who is - we learn this week - injured.  Other than explaining why Eric Tetlow got in the game, it might also be among the reasons why the line struggled early to push VMI off the line.

UVA can afford no such problems in the interior this week, and Wallace is going to have to play the game of his life.  With the twin terrors that Pitt has at defensive tackle - Aaron Donald already has seven TFL in just three games, and Tyrone Ezell is a beast of a nose tackle - it's likely UVA will struggle in the middle all day long.

Despite that, Pitt has struggled to defend the run.  Even against New Mexico they had problems; UNM's top two running backs, Crusoe Gongbay and Cole Gautsch, combined for 20 carries and 145 yards.  A pretty good day on the ground for a team that lost by three touchdowns.  Duke's Brandon Connette and Josh Snead carried 29 times for 160 yards.  Pitt has simply been unsuccessful stopping the run this year.

It won't help if they don't have their defensive ends.  Two of their better ones - Bryan Murphy and Devin Cook - look as though they'll miss the game, and linebacker Shane Gordon, leading his unit in tackles, is also questionable (and judging from posts on the Pitt boards, probably less than questionable).  It's obvious that the place to attack the Pitt defense will be on the edges.  Follow Morgan Moses; he ought to be able to easily handle the Pitt defensive ends.  If Zach Swanson wasn't missing the game I'd feel even more confident about the edges; Swanson is probably the best blocking tight end we have right now.

The question is going to be: who carries the ball?  Parks, of course, will be asked to carry the load, but will the coaches turn back to Hamm?  I'd like to see what happens - Hamm's very aggressive style could pay off in a matchup like this.  If Pitt had really good, heady linebackers it'd be different, because there's no deception in his game and a guy like Steve Greer would find it easy to diagnose.  But linebacking is the weak point in the Pitt defense, and Hamm's desire to get upfield quickly on a run to the edges would help neutralize the Pitt defensive tackles, giving them less time to disengage and chase him down.  Tippytoe runs while the back waits for a hole he likes will get our guys run down from behind.  Not that Shepherd is especially prone to that - but more so than Hamm, yes.

I think if the right game is called, UVA will succeed in the run game.  They'll have a really hard time punching it up the gut, but should find room on the edges.  The depth chart has Hamm fourth, but I do think the coaches plan to use him again.  And I think he'll outgain Shepherd.  Hopefully that's not a case of me predicting what I want to happen, because I'd love to see Hamm be the pleasant surprise of the season, not just the VMI game.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Pitt pass defense

David Watford: 65/98, 66.3%; 481 yards, 3 TDs, 6 INTs; 4.91 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 14 rec., 81 yards, 1 TD
Darius Jennings: 12 rec., 77 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
170.3 yards/game, 4.7 yards/attempt
123rd of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Pitt defense:
251 yards/game, 9.5 yards/attempt
119th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Pillow fight!  The ACC's worst pass offense goes against its worst pass defense.  Or so it looks.  Actually I think the Panthers' pass defense will look better as the season goes on; it so happens that Duke and Florida State have passing games that will test any defense, and Pitt does have the ability to shut down lousy passing offenses, as they did to New Mexico.

A game against VMI doesn't tell you much, but it does give you this: there are certain things that if you don't see them against VMI, you never will.  An explosive passing offense is one of them.  David Watford simply needs experience before the passing game can consistently diversify its efforts.  Til then, this element of the game will be one where we just hope for good enough.

As for the opponent, the main concerns are Pitt's two defensive stars, Aaron Donald and Jason Hendricks.  Donald has four sacks this season and is basically Pitt's only pass rush - he'll be double- and maybe triple-teamed all day, and is the guy who our running backs (Parks, mainly, as the only experienced one) will need to keep their eye on in blocking.  Hendricks is a safety and a good one.

Otherwise, Pitt isn't too scary.  I don't think Watford will face much of a rush except up the middle, and Jameis Winston of FSU was able to have some scrambling success so hopefully Watford can do the same.  Pitt's corners got torched by Duke's receivers so ours should be able to find some room too..  Watford should be able to further improve his yards-per-attempt, but don't expect anything spectacular.  Because of the pressure up the middle but the likely lack thereof on the edges, I also think he'll find a way to scramble and maybe contribute three yards a carry to the run game.  If Fairchild calls some rollouts and bootlegs (which he hasn't yet, but hey) that could play right toward our possible strengths.

-- Pitt run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
James Conner: 47 carries, 326 yards, 6.9 ypc, 3 TDs
Isaac Bennett: 35 carries, 174 yards, 5.0 ypc, 2 TDs

Pitt offense:
184.33 yards/game, 5.17 yards/attempt
36th of 125 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
192.67 yards/game, 4.90 yards/attempt
103rd of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Still too early in the season for you to let these numbers cause you any panic.  New Mexico is awful, for one, and Duke sucks on defense too; Oregon is still messing up our own stats.  Nevertheless, Pitt's running game has shown some signs of life that folks didn't expect when Rushel Shell left the team.

Freshman RB James Conner has been the star for the Panthers, having big games against both UNM and Duke but being largely bottled up by FSU.  Isaac Bennett, other than a pretty good UNM game, doesn't really look like a tremendously improved back over last year.  Conner is the guy the Panthers are going to lean on; he's a big, powerful back at 6'2", 230 and will be a load to bring down.

The Pitt O-line took a hit in losing center Gabe Roberts for the game, though its a depth thing rather than losing a starter, as Artie Rowell had beaten him out for the starting job.  Pitt's interior line is respectable but not overpowering; it's a fairly even matchup in the trenches.

That the Hoos have placed Max Valles atop the depth chart at linebacker, though, is a vote of confidence in the front seven, or really, front six in the run game since Valles is there to rush the passer.  Daquan Romero and Henry Coley have done nice work, and I think you have to be impressed by the tackle totals along the defensive line (although admittedly somewhat inflated by VMI's horrible O-line.)  I think UVA will likely be able to make Bennett a non-factor, and Conner should find much less running room than he's been used to the past two games.

-- Pitt pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Tom Savage: 51/78, 65.4%; 861 yards, 9 TDs, 4 INTs; 11.04 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Devin Street: 17 rec., 387 yards, 2 TDs
Tyler Boyd: 16 rec., 314 yards, 4 TDs

Pitt offense:
289.7 yards/game, 11.0 yards/attempt
7th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
140.0 yards/game, 4.2 yards/attempt
2nd of 125 (national), 1st of 14 (ACC)

The contrast between this and the passing matchup on the other side of the field is almost comical.  Pitt's Tom Savage absolutely bombed Duke, racking up 424 passing yards and six TDs in just that one game.  I said before the season Pitt could be dangerous if they found a complement to Devin Street, and freshman Tyler Boyd is it.  Both of them have big-play ability and will be one of the season's biggest tests for our secondary, high praise considering we have to face Stefon Diggs and Sammy Watkins later on.

That said, Savage has a few obstacles of his own.  UVA has a whopping 23 pass breakups, a number that is not terribly inflated by the VMI game.  The Hoos have allowed 37 completions, so an enemy pass is almost as likely to be ruthlessly swatted to the ground as to be completed.  Brent Urban leads the team - and defensive linemen nationwide - with five breakups, and Demetrious Nicholson and Maurice Canady each have four.

The pass rush is still a question mark, though; most of our sacks came against VMI, so Eli Harold and the rest of the pass-rushing gang still has something to prove.  Jon Tenuta will use Max Valles as a pass-rusher to try and boost the pressure on Savage, who is the pocket-statue sort of quarterback, and an NFL-friendly 6'5", which could help to nullify the D-line's pass-swatting talents.

The entire game, in the end, may swing on how well the defense is able to slow down Street and Boyd.  I would say that if neither reaches 100 yards receiving, UVA has won the game.  UVA doesn't need to sack Savage for the pressure to work; Pitt is not a quick-hit offense so if they can simply keep Savage uncomfortable, they can disrupt the show.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 4.5
UVA pass offense: 4
UVA run defense: 6
UVA pass defense: 5.5

Average: 5

-- Outlook

Simply put, this is one of the most intriguing matchups of the year.  Both teams have some pretty deep flaws.  We have a questionable offensive line going up against a wrecking ball of a defensive tackle and a quarterback whose decision-making has been questionable.  Pitt's defensive end lineup is a nuclear disaster, and their defense overall is a problem.  Both teams have their strengths: Pitt's DTs and pass offense, our pass defense.  I can't see Pitt winning this game if UVA is able to bottle up the Pitt receiving tandem, and UVA is dead in the water if they can't run the ball and loosen up Pitt's already-shaky pass defense.  This game just comes down to who can cover up their flaws the best.

-- Predictions

-- Daniel Hamm outgains Khalek Shepherd.

-- Watford manages about six yards per pass.

-- Watford also contributes at least 30 yards on the ground.

-- Aaron Donald and Eli Harold are the only players on either team to register a sack.

-- UVA is able to keep Pitt's running game in check, with no more than four yards a carry.

-- If both Tyler Boyd and Devin Street have fewer than 100 receiving yards apiece, UVA wins.

Final score: UVA 27, Pitt 23

Rest of the ACC:

Virginia Tech 17, Georgia Tech 10 - Thu. - Despite crushing adversity brought on by unconscionable and totally indefensible scheduling screwjobs, the Hokies overcame the terrible obstacles and stood tall in victory with a heroic, stirring, against-all-odds victory.

Miami @ South Florida - 12:00 - USF's giant-killing days are dead, so the Canes won't have much trouble here.  Back to the big three in Florida.

North Carolina vs. East Carolina - 12:30 - Sadly, the Heels don't play Western Carolina to complete the trifecta.

Duke vs. Troy - 3:00 - Really stupid fun fact: There are lots of teams whose common name is only four letters long (Utah, Iowa, Navy, etc.) but these are two of the only three whose names are just one syllable.  Guess the other one and win no prize at all.

Florida State @ Boston College - 3:30 - Truthfully, the schedule-makers were worse to BC than to VT this week, making them play FSU the week after playing USC.

NC State vs. Central Michigan - 3:30 - MAC snack.

Wake Forest @ Clemson - 3:30 - Wake cake.

Bye - Maryland

(Answer: Rice.)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

suck it up

Today's Norm Wood column quotes VT's so-popular defensive coordinator Bud Foster and his thoughts about VT's schedule this week.  Cliff notes: he's whining about having to play Georgia Tech on Thursday on the road, just five days after their epic showdown against C-USA powerhouse Marshall.  The natural and obvious reaction for UVA fans is to roll our eyes and call Foster a crybaby.  UVA has to play Clemson this year and Florida State next year in the first two seasons of the 14-team ACC; Tech won't play either until 2017 and 2018, and is playing Maryland this year and Wake the next.  The ACC has certainly done Tech all sorts of favors already - haven't they?

I decided to look at a few actual stats to see if our impressions are right.  One of the biggest complaints UVA fans tend to have is that VT always gets a bye or a long week before the UVA game, and we never do.  It's not really true, though.  Since joining the ACC, we've had one bye (2007) and one Thursday game (2012) before the Tech game; Tech had a Thursday game in 2011 and byes in 2005 and this year.  Not really the screwjob that exists in our heads.

This 5-day layoff thing is another thing entirely.  First off, since 2005, the ACC team with more Thursday night appearances than any other is, of course, VT.  They have more than twice as many as Florida State.  So they're accustomed to the limelight.  I looked back at every Thursday night ACC game (not counting out-of-conference games) and it turns out that - excluding the Hokies - fewer than half but more than one-third of the time, a team gets a 5-day layoff before a Thursday game.  Clearly the league does try and place bye weeks before Thursday games when they can, but can't always do it.

(However, I will give you exactly one guess as to which team has played four Thursday night games since 2005 and never had a prior bye week.  HELPFUL HINT: IT'S VIRGINIA.)

Tech, on the other hand, has a special deal.  Before this season, they've had 15 Thursday night games.  Want to guess how many of them came five days after a Saturday game?  One.  It happened once for them, back in 2006.  Now, I'm sure that was a really horrible experience - but as it happens, the league gave them a bye prior to that game.  They played Southern Miss that Saturday and came back and had no problems beating Clemson on Thursday.

Do you notice something in common?  This Saturday's game wasn't a league game either.  So despite Tech's 16 Thursday ACC tilts, the league has never forced them to play two conference games five days apart.  And I mentioned a special deal.  Most years, Tech has had the following deal:

-- Saturday game
-- Bye
-- Thursday game
-- Thursday game
-- Saturday game

This is what they got in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012.  Pretty cushy.  12 days to prepare, then a full week, then 10 days.  That's not coincidence whatsoever - that's the conference purposely giving them a great deal, and either Tech specifically asks for that or the league just gives their special boy a special handjob.  Clemson this year and FSU next means UVA can't even get a reach-around.

Foster couched his bitch-fest today in terms of player safety, though it never seemed to bother him when teams had five-day layoffs to prepare for the Hokies while he got all kinds of extra prep time.  This is really about a coach accustomed to getting special treatment and now being forced to live like everyone else.

Monday, September 23, 2013

weekend review

As promised, the weekly regular kicks off with the weekly spin around the ACC:

-- Clemson is not exactly giving anyone reason to believe they're a good bet to fulfill their role as the ACC's media favorite.  Their win over NC State was grindingly efficient, not dominating.

-- Three overtimes to beat Marshall?  Part of the problem is that They Stole My Weed Officer was suspended for that game, but then - how many strikes does this Journell chump get anyway?  As long as Ethan Keyserling keeps missing kicks, the answer is "as many as he needs."

-- Pitt's offense may yet prove me wrong - you'll remember I called it the worst one in the ACC.  It probably isn't.  But then, Duke's defense harkens back to Duke defenses of old, of traditional Duke teams that went 1-11.

-- Let's hope West Virginia really, really sucks.  Deon Long appears to be the real deal at Maryland, though.


Time for a quick switch now, over to women's soccer.  The official site called the game a "come-from-behind win", which, technically it was, but that phrase conjures up images of losing most of the game before a spirited, late-game comeback.  Nuh-uh.  I admittedly watched that game hoping for a nice easy slaughter - come on, the #1 team in the country vs. a lower-level ACC team - and that's just what I got.  I wish every team would deliver like that.  Final stats: 37 shots to 3 and 13 corner kicks to 0.  The ladies looked ruthless and businesslike.  Oh, that shot didn't go in?  No worries, another one is coming in a couple minutes.

You can see why Makenzy Doniak is leading the team in goals - it seems like she's on the receiving end of literally every other pass.  She cleaned up a corner kick for her first goal, planted herself in the perfect place on the field for her second, and on UVA's first goal, drew the Pitt keeper in her direction and caused her to totally forget about, you know, the one USNWT-capped player on the field.  Oh yeah, her.  She's dangerous too.

(Speaking of Morgan Brian, would it be so much to ask for the next game's announcers to remember her last name and not constantly be calling her "Morgan Henry"?  Where did they dig up that name?  Does an appearance on the national team not merit at least learning her name even if you call the entire rest of the team Golda Meir?)


The depth chart got a little tweak this week for the Pitt game.  Yes, Daniel Hamm is there.  Goody goody.  I want to see him in action against an ACC team, and if Shepherd and Mizzell are still all banged up, we'll get that chance.  Maybe even if Shepherd or Mizzell are still hurt.

A surprise name shows up at SLB: Max Valles, bumping Demeitre Brim down a notch.  I don't think Valles is being used as a real linebacker, though; the coaches are talking about Valles in terms of what he brings as a pass rusher.  So, in sort of the old Al Groh down-linebacker role.  Sort of.  Jon Tenuta is different, of course, but Valles isn't in the game for his coverage skills against tight ends.


Senior Seasons feature:

Upland 55, Silverado 21: Jeffery Farrar had a 66-yard interception return as Upland is getting out of the really tough early portion of their schedule and into teams they are ridiculously better than.  Upland is 2-2.

Peachtree Ridge 31, Mill Creek 30: Jordan Ellis carried 31 times for 146 yards.  Peachtree Ridge is 4-0.

Episcopal 29, Hill School 9: Evan Butts caught a touchdown.  Episcopal is 4-0.

Central Catholic 49, Shorecrest Prep 0 (Caanan Brown) - CCC is 3-1.
Cummings 27, Roxboro Person 26 (Will Richardson) - Cummings is 1-4.
Oscar Smith 27, Western Branch 14 (Andrew Brown) - Oscar Smith is 3-0.
Tallwood 18, Bayside 15 (Quin Blanding) - Bayside is 2-2.
Brooke Point 34, Chancellor 14 (Steven Moss) - Chancellor is 0-4.
Woodgrove 51, John Champe 0 (J.J. Jackson) - Woodgrove is 2-1.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

hamm it up

Everybody loves a good Cinderella story.  And I love watching dominant running backs.  That makes Daniel Hamm the obvious topic du jour.

If you'd ever heard of Hamm, you are a teammate, a relation, or lying.  His existence flew under every radar that's tuned on Charlottesville.  He doesn't have an entry in most recruiting databases and he never received any scholarship offers to speak of, not in football.  He showed up on the field and people probably tried to remember if Khalek Shepherd wore #22 or some other number, until his name was announced.  Now his name is on all the headlines.

You have to admit, that's pretty cool.  It might be for just this one week, and might've only been VMI, but the entry in the record book is just as permanent as any other.  And it made something interesting out of an uninteresting game.

Also, it leaves some questions, or at least, one big one.  Namely, does this mean we have a new running back?  Well, the quality of competition looms large over everything positive we can say about Hamm's future.  Except for the first couple drives, VMI had no chance against the blocking, and Hamm always had a hole to run through.  When he broke a tackle, it always came with the question as to whether a player on a better team would've brought him down; when he ran past someone, you always wondered if another team's players would've been faster.  There's no way UVA's running game will generate 357 yards again this year.

Even so, a couple things look to be really in Hamm's favor here.  First and probably foremost, it's got to be really bad news for Kye Morgan, hasn't it?  That Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell are both hurt, and the next guy out is a true freshman walk-on, instead of Morgan who redshirted last season - that's a surprise.  Morgan's got more than three-and-a-half seasons left in his career, so it's not like you just write him off, but what didn't he show last year?

As for Hamm himself, some of those runs - particularly, I thought, his second TD run - were nice runs regardless of opponent.  He looked strong in his running.  Some of the holes he hit weren't very big, and the truth is, a lot of guys might have considered them too small and stepped around them, looking for a home run elsewhere.  And against most teams, that's how you run for two yards.  Hamm was content to take the five-to-seven and come back and do it again.  There's only one Barry Sanders, so give me the north-south, workhorse stuff all day long.  I loved watching a guy who would - oh, fuck it, Hammer the defense - carry after carry.

Whether Hamm has or will unseat Shepherd or Mizzell this season, nobody can say except those who aren't telling.  Whether that performance will translate to success against actual opponents, nobody can say at all.  But I'm looking forward to finding out.

Other stuff in short:

-- That was the good story of the offense.  The bad story: the passing game.  The numbers are good but the eye test was definitely not.  So many of those yards were YAC, and not like with Mike Rocco where the YAC was often the result of a very well-timed ball.  Watford threw a swing pass behind Kevin Parks and Parks was still able to pick up a ton of yardage; no ACC team will let that happen.

Watford's interceptions were the result of locking in on a receiver to absurd extremes.  Especially the first.  Some blame goes to Miles Gooch for running his route and then stopping, but he was so thoroughly covered that Watford had no business throwing that thing at all.  Watford had some nice throws, too - the one to Tim Smith for a touchdown was gorgeous.  Both his touchdown throws, actually, were excellent.  Even then, he was watching nobody but Smith all the way.  Until he learns to go through his second read he's not going to be a productive QB.

It would help if his receivers gave him a little assistance.  Gooch has been mentioned; Dominique Terrell was also guilty at least once.  Watford was scrambling and Terrell ran to a point on the field and simply stopped moving.  I can't believe this only happened the two times I noticed it.  Marques Hagans has got to impress on these guys that the route doesn't stop where the little arrow ends up.  Of all former quarterbacks - a guy who kept a ton of plays alive with his feet - he ought to know this best.

-- I love the defense, though.  When the announcers talked about how VMI had us "on the ropes" in the first quarter, well, OK, the offense didn't produce, but the VMI offense gained 15 yards the whole quarter.  I mean, come on.  The defense just crushed the fightin' Vimmies.  No contest.  If the offense had played as good a game as the defense it would've been 105-0.  I'm not going back through the annals to find out the last time UVA allowed so few yards (79) but the notes tell us that they allowed 84 to Akron in 2004.  So it goes back further than that.  I would go so far as to say that even with as bad as VMI is, the defense outperformed expectations.

Time for a prediction review:

-- Mizzell and Shepherd combine for at least five more carries than Parks.  The point here was that Parks was going to get a nice light day, maybe not show up in the second half.  I could null it out since nobody knew about their injuries, but I'm giving it to myself, actually, because Hamm by himself had four more carries and then the fourth quarter was turned over to the backups.

-- Watford averages 10 yards per attempt, enough to double his seasonal passing yards if allowed to throw 28 times.  He was at 8.2, which isn't enough for this.

-- At least five new redshirts are burned, two on the O-line.  The grand total is seven: Hamm is one, along with LaChaston Smith, Eric Tetlow, Sadiq Olanrewaju, Eric Smith, Max Valles, and Donte Wilkins.  Most are defensible; LaChaston Smith is the one I have to question.  That hurdle was cool, but couldn't Morgan have just gotten those carries?  Five deep is plenty.  It's doubly screwy because of the very strong possibility that Smith might move to a whole new position eventually.

The rest are fine.  I actually saw someone complaining that Hamm's redshirt had been burned.  Lordy.  You wouldn't have known he was even remotely good if you'd gotten your way.  Besides, Hamm is a walk-on; it's exceedingly wrong to essentially tell a walk-on "for the good of the team we're going to ask you to pay your very expensive way for a fifth year."  The offensive linemen almost had to play; the first-stringers can't take every snap of the season.  And we'll almost certainly see more of Wilkins, too.

-- Defensive tackles account for at least two sacks.  No, but they still dominated.

-- So does Eli Harold.  No, but Trent Corney did, probably against VMI's second-string tackle, although I didn't look to see.

-- Urban bats down at least two passes.  There was actually a lot of very good pressure on Eric Kordenbrock, but VMI did a nice job of keeping his release time short.

I only get two of six, which adds up to 6-for-16 on the year.  Full game prediction, with a win against the spread and a gimme on the straight-up, makes me 2-1 and 2-1 ATS.

We'll cover the rest of the ACC as part of tomorrow's weekend review.

Friday, September 20, 2013

game preview: VMI

Date/Time: Saturday, September 21; 3:30


Record against the Keydets: 56-23-3

Last meeting: UVA 48, VMI 7; 9/25/10, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA bye; North Greenville 37, VMI 24

Line: UVA by 44

Injury report: N/A

Chances are, everything you need to know about VMI, you learned from the box score of the North Greenville game.  VMI is typically a lousy team for obvious recruiting-obstacles reasons, but even so they've generally been able to beat the D-II opponents their schedulers put in front of them.  Losing to one - getting creamed by one, actually - is the sort of inauspicious omen that says "this team might not win again all year."  But the games are played for a reason, and UVA is not in any position to take any opponent lightly, even a frosty cupcake like VMI.

-- UVA run offense vs. VMI run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 39 carries, 125 yards, 3.2 ypc, 1 TD
Taquan Mizzell: 13 carries, 30 yards, 2.3 ypc, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
116.5 yards/game, 2.88 yards/attempt
113th of 125 (national); 13th of 14 (ACC)

VMI defense:
206.3 yards/game, 5.16 yards/attempt
85th of 114 (national); 5th of 6 (Big South)

I have to admit, I'm a little surprised at how much the run game thus far has leaned on Kevin Parks.  I mean, Parks is a solid back, if he's ever given an inch of running room, which he has not, but I did think more work would've been handed to Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell by now.  But by their powers combined they have barely half the carries Parks does.

Not that they've shown they deserve a ton of work.  Mizzell hasn't gotten much room to maneuver either, and has done nothing spectacular in his nine carries.  Shepherd has one big run for 45 yards and has otherwise been equally bottled up.  Parks's 3.2 yards a carry - which is an awfully disappointing number - lead the team, minus the big Shepherd run.

VMI is another 3-4 team, but one with a horribly undersized defensive front.  Nose tackle Joe Nelson - a redshirt freshman - is 265 pounds.  The ends are smaller.  Regardless of what stunts and whatever else the VMI defense tries to run, the matchup against Morgan Moses will be patently unfair, and if UVA can't completely own the line of scrimmage then we are going to have issues all year long.

I would expect some redshirts to be burned along the O-line.  Yes, people hate seeing that, but if they're in the two-deep they gotta play, and the depth we have doesn't allow us the luxury of sitting the freshmen out.  Moses can't play every snap all season long.  In fact, those who stick around for the fourth quarter will get a UVA fan's first glimpse at four brand-new linemen: Olanrewaju, Smith, Matteo, and Mooney.

You have to assume that Parks won't be asked to be a workhorse, either.  My guess is that Shepherd and Mizzell will combine to easily surpass Parks's total carries, and Kye Morgan probably gets some burn, too.  This should be a successful day on the ground.  If it's not, you might be better off spending the season in a drunken haze.

-- UVA pass offense vs. VMI pass defense

David Watford: 47/73, 64.4%; 275 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs; 3.77 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 11 rec., 62 yards, 0 TDs
Darius Jennings: 10 rec., 60 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
144.0 yards/game, 3.6 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

VMI defense:
304.0 yards/game, 7.7 yards/attempt
105th of 114 (national), 6th of 6 (Big South)

Yes, those are some truly shit numbers we've put up there.  I think the coaches realize it, too; it is decidedly not an effective pass offense when your QB hits on almost two-thirds of his passes and has such a truly poor per-attempt average.  They've talked about opening it up some this week.

On the flip side, though, those VMI numbers are even worse.  They don't look that bad, but remember: not just one, but two of their games are against D-II competition (and they needed a last-minute goal-line stand to beat one of those teams), and the only reason the numbers aren't worse is because North Greenville eased off the gas.  At cornerback, VMI starts a redshirt freshman (the entire depth chart abounds with freshmen) and a 5'9" junior.  Watford will double his passing yards for the season if the coaches let him throw enough.  25 passes would about do it.

-- VMI run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Derrick Ziglar: 34 carries, 191 yards, 5.6 ypc, 1 TD
Deon Watts: 20 carries, 47 yards, 2.3 ypc, 0 TD

VMI offense:
68.3 yards/game, 2.9 yards/attempt
108th of 114 (national), 6th of 6 (Big South)

UVA defense:
268.5 yards/game, 5.77 yards/attempt
114th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

These numbers are not quite fair because Oregon.  This game should help fix them.  VMI has actually had some success on the ground, mainly when they hand off to Derrick Ziglar.  Deon Watts appears to have been replaced on the depth chart due to lack of production.  VMI's horrible numbers actually stem from their pitiful pass protection.

That said, there is no depth on the VMI O-line.  They do have a pair of massive, 325-pound tackles, but the backup right tackle is 6'2, 260.  So is Will Lucas, the starting center.  Just from that matchup alone, Brent Urban and the rest of the gang at DT should have a field day.  Ziglar has some talent - he's a bowling-ball style back who measures in at 5'9", 230 - but as eminent a rush defense as Richmond held him to 26 yards.  Ziglar's build is rare in D-II, but the Hoos should be able to contain him without much trouble.

-- VMI pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Eric Kordenbrock: 68/109, 62.4%; 818 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 7.5 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Derrick Ziglar: 13 rec., 164 yards, 1 TD
James Rogers: 9 rec., 105 yards, 1 TD

VMI offense:
272.7 yards/game, 7.5 yards/attempt
25th of 114 (national), 1st of 6 (Big South)

UVA defense:
191.0 yards/game, 5.5 yards/attempt
24th of 125 (national), 6th of 14 (ACC)

Largely out of necessity, VMI has thrown the ball a ton this season, especially against North Greenville; Eric Kordenbrock had 47 throws in that game.  Kordenbrock isn't a bad quarterback as I-AA signal-callers go, but he's also a big, tall statue (6'4", 220) with zilch running ability, which contributes to the poor pass protection he's been getting.

As mentioned, VMI's tackles are huge, so in the pass-rush department, I'd expect Jake Snyder to have a quiet day; Eli Harold off the edge could be interesting, though.  If those big guys can handle his speed, maybe Kordenbrock won't get killed on the blind side.  If not, it'll be an all-day kinda thing for Harold.  Urban is also going to have some fun going up against VMI's undersized interior; it's likely he'll have to be double teamed because putting his height against VMI's lack of it will result in plenty of swatted passes.  Lucky for VMI their QB is tall, but their passing game is also oriented largely to the middle of the field.  The leading receivers are RB Ziglar and slot receiver James Rogers, and tight end Mario Thompson is heavily involved, too.

The one matchup issue UVA might have is 6'5" outside receiver Sam Patterson.  But if he were fast, one, he'd average a lot more than 10.8 yards a catch, way at the bottom of that list for VMI, and two, he'd be playing I-A football.

Our secondary is going to have an athleticism advantage because every unit should have an athleticism advantage, but I'd say it's that pass rush that should make life miserable for VMI.  The DTs could well have a turkey shoot out there, and Harold has the potential to be a major X factor.

-- Favorability ratings

I had some trouble with these, because, look, things like our pass offense have really sucked so far.  But VMI is so .... bad.  This is still a new thing, so, still in need of calibration if you will, but let's try:

UVA run offense: 10
UVA pass offense: 9.5
UVA run defense: 10
UVA pass defense: 10

Average: 9.86

-- Outlook

It's hard to write one of these things without sounding arrogantly dismissive.  But VMI did lose to a D-II team.  The difference between D-II (36 scholarships) and I-AA (63) is much greater than that between I-AA and I-A (85).  And this wasn't just one bad game.  VMI struggled to beat Glenville State - a bad D-II team! - and was totally uncompetitive against Richmond.  They could neither move the ball nor stop Richmond, on a crappy rainy day, against the quarterback that came in third in the same QB competition where David Watford came in second in 2011 (as a true freshman.)  This is a worse VMI team than the one that lost 48-7 to a bad UVA team in 2010.  There's no reason at all this should be competitive.

-- Prediction summary:

-- Mizzell and Shepherd combine for at least five more carries than Parks.

-- Watford averages 10 yards per attempt, enough to double his seasonal passing yards if allowed to throw 28 times.

-- At least five new redshirts are burned, two on the O-line.

-- Defensive tackles account for at least two sacks.

-- So does Eli Harold.

-- Urban bats down at least two passes.

Final score: UVA 59, VMI 0

-- Rest of the ACC:

Clemson 26, NC State 14  - Thu. - Probably closer than it should've been, which could be a storm cloud for Clemson, but their defense was excellent.

North Carolina @ Georgia Tech - 12:00 - A big Coastal matchup that would take place later in the season if the ACC schedulers were smart.  I mean, at least in October.

Virginia Tech vs. Marshall - 12:00 - Tech's quest continues to find a defense they can move the ball against.

Wake Forest @ Army - 12:00 - Not remotely a guaranteed ACC win.

Pittsburgh @ Duke - 12:30 - Could already be a Bowl Eligibility Bowl.

Syracuse vs. Tulane - 12:30 - Second part of the epic ACC-CUSA matchups this week.

Maryland vs. West Virginia - 3:30 - A big chance to learn something about Maryland.

Florida State vs. Bethune-Cookman - 6:00 - Wildcats to the slaughter.

Miami vs. Savannah State - 7:00 - Likewise.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

the recruit: Jack Salt

Name: Jack Salt
Position: C
Hometown: Auckland, New Zealand
School: Westlake Boys School
Height: 6'10"
Weight: 230

24/7: N/R
Rivals: N/R
Scout: N/R

Other offers: None

I don't routinely cover basketball recruiting, preferring almost exclusively to wait until someone actually commits before I say anything.  There's a very long list of reasons why, but one of them is this: Months, even years, can pass, with nothing happening, and then everything you thought you knew goes out the window in two days.

Case in point: Two weeks ago, four-star and top-100 prospect Martin Geben, who liked UVA but liked Notre Dame more, was scheduled to visit Charlottesville for a trip that would hopefully flip-flop the two in his mind.  Then the visit was cancelled - mutually, as it came out shortly thereafter - and Geben committed to the Irish.

The reason for the cancellation, as it turns out, is named Jack Salt, a name that lends itself to too-easy puns and - I think - sounds like something out of Mother Goose.  ("Jack Salt could drink no malt / His wife could drink no gin / And so betwixt them both, it made / The barman quite chagrined.")  Several times a year the recruiting gurus will say "there is a mystery recruit whose name I can't reveal yet."  Rarely are they so adamant about saying positively nothing.  Salt is a guy that Tony Bennett personally identified (it was his New Zealand connections that made this one possible), personally scouted, and personally recruited, and this was definitely one of those deals where the coaching staff wants CIA levels of secrecy lest someone else find out about the prize.  Salt visited this past weekend, and that put the bow on top so that the secret could finally be let out.

We can go ahead and list Salt's resume - he played one season for the Super City Rangers of the NBL, New Zealand's professional league, but that's OK because his team is actually 100% amateur.  He's played for the U-18 version of his national team, but sparingly, whereas for the Rangers, he's a starter.  (Given that the Rangers don't pay their players, they're terrible, though.)  And for the Rangers, he averaged 8.6 ppg and 5.4 rebounds in 18.5 minutes.

Doesn't tell us much about the quality of the competition, though.  It's probably not much; the NBL requires all but two players on each team's roster to be native Kiwis, and the FIBA rankings place New Zealand 18th in the world, ahead of several countries (like Italy) that have no such rules.  One of the teams in the NBL plays in a high school gym.  We're talking about a league that's well below the competitiveness of the professional leagues in Europe and China.

That said, Bennett has a track record of finding players way down there.  Kirk Penney played for him when he was an assistant at Wisconsin and later went on to a short NBA career; at Washington State, he brought in a player named Aron Baynes, who put up 12.7 ppg/7.5 rpg as a senior, and then took the long way to the NBA, where he appeared with the Spurs just this past season.

As we discussed with Isaiah Wilkins, there won't be much need for a freshman big in the rotation in 2014-15.  You'll have Tobey, Gill, and Atkins playing major, major minutes.  Wilkins might get a few minutes here and there; Salt may just redshirt.  Even in his sophomore (or redshirt freshman) season, Tobey will be a senior and probably a major workhorse if things develop right, but that'll at least be when Salt starts to show up in the mix.  Make no mistake, Bennett's rolling the dice a little on an investment in the long term, but he found a gem for Wazzu in Baynes, so he knew what he was doing when he shut the door on Geben.

Which, by the way, brings us to one final point: I'd been noting, in profile posts of recent years, that Tony appeared to be going over future scholarship limits, and the gurus dealt with this by telling people "the numbers will work themselves out."  But here, the signs point to Tony being done with 2014 if he gets good news from Robert Johnson (or if not, and he goes after a consolation prize in someone like Jalen Hudson) - otherwise he wouldn't have shut down the pursuit of Geben.  One more player will fill up the limit for 2014-15, and one more player is all it looks like Tony will take.  I take this as a sign that Tony is no longer getting I-might-transfer vibes from his players.  That can only be good news.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Can you hear them?

Sometimes, see, when I have a little bit of the writer's block, because a bye week just happened and there's very little going on and I got nothing really (and let's be honest, this is the toughest thing about writing a blog and has been for five years), I look back a year ago at this time and see what I wrote about back then.  Sometimes two or three years.  It's a great way to get ideas.  OK, it's recycling ideas, but if I do it right nobody notices.

So that's what I did this evening.  It turns out that the last two years of mid-September, mid-week writings have been the Realignment Channel.  That's mainly because last year around this time, Notre Dame was brought into the ACC fold, and two years ago this week, it was Pitt and Syracuse.  Two years ago!  Syracuse has still not yet played an ACC football game, and won't for another two-plus weeks.  What the hell were you doing two years ago?  Got a new kid?  Different job?  New house?  Last week, I started my new, actual, permanent job, at which I interned last summer (that would be over a year ago) as a sort of extended job interview; when Pitt and Syracuse announced they'd be ACC-ites, I hadn't even interviewed for that internship yet.  Scratch that: I don't think I'd even applied yet.  I think at that point I had signed up for the information-slash-recruiting session.  Signed up, and not yet attended.  Two years ago is a long-ass time.

That was the smack-ass middle of realignment, of course.  Or really, it was the rising crest of the wave, which you will of course be telling your grandkids about.  ("Son, I remember when conferences only had eight teams in them.")  Division I has 33 conferences (post-schism in the Big East/AAC), 29 of which were affected by realignment.  Only the Ivy, MEAC, SWAC, and MAC didn't gain or lose membership from elsewhere; the first three because they have some pretty stringent membership requirements and the last because who knows?  (Well, it's because nobody wanted to add semi-obscure Midwestern schools and nobody saw a conference of semi-obscure Midwestern schools as a dream destination.  But the MAC did have a small peripheral football effect, gaining UMass and losing Temple as football-only members.)  WAC football was destroyed, as was the CCHA, the Great West Conference, the ECAC lacrosse league, and the Pacific Coast Softball Conference.

Somewhere, of course, Jim Delany is surveying the carnage with a cigar and a satisfied expression.

At any rate, that has all happened, and while I don't think it's safe to say that there's nothing left to find out in this arena, nobody's talking about it.  Oh, sure, there's still change afoot; Big Tenians still have a 14-team "conference" to look forward to, and the ACC's couch-burning quotient will drop to nearly zero.  But college football news is finally all about what college football news should be about.  Important stuff like:

-- Will anyone beat Alabama this year?

-- Who has the latest awesome uniformzz?  (But even that is slowly dying down, I sense; not that teams aren't still having an informal contest to see who can look the stupidest, but these things are getting less hype than they used to.)

-- How douchey is the country's latest celebrity quarterback, on a scale from Tim Tebow (you'll hate him, if he would ever do anything remotely douchey) to Terrelle Pryor (shows up in an obviously ill-gotten car to a team meeting that will lay out some of the repercussions from the major scandal that he got them into in the first place)?  And can the NCAA find proof of said celebrity quarterback's breach of amateur status?

-- Should we hype a quarterback or a running back for Heisman this year?  Or is this a year we talk about why does no other position ever win it and find a weird-position representative to hype until November?

-- Which coach is gonna do something really stupid this year?  (Or did something really stupid two years ago that we can dig up?)

-- And most importantly, now that the BCS is on its final hurrah, what cause should smarmy, high-horse media zealots like Dan Wetzel take up in lieu of trying to kill the system that smarmy, high-horse media zealots demanded 15 years ago in order to fix the unfathomable evils of split national championships?  The smart money is on amateurism and Why Do Poor Football Players Have To Drive A 1997 Honda Civic While Their Filthy Rich Coaches Tool Around In BMWs? or something to that effect.

In other words, everything is back to normal, just like it was in much simpler times, like 2008.  It's a lot more enjoyable than wondering whether Texas will decide to become an East Coast or West Coast school.

Monday, September 16, 2013

weekend review

No game this week means I don't get to have as much fun writing as I'm used to, but we'll plow ahead anyway.

Impressions from around the ACC this week:

-- VT's offense remains putrid.  This week, ECU managed to stymie the Hokie running game to the tune of 1.6 yards a carry.  Not to be left out of the show, Cody "They Stole My Weed, Officer" Journell biffed a pair of 40-ish-yard field goals and an extra point.  If the football gods are cruel, Virginia Tech and Michigan State will meet in a bowl game this year, with one of them winning 6-0 in 7OT on an interception return.  Or, given the relative quality of the defenses (very good) and offenses (ick) on those teams, college football's first overtime safety.

-- Wake Forest is pretty bad.  Jim Grobe is going to have the hottest seat in the ACC this year.

-- Maryland looks better so far than I've been giving them credit for, but they haven't been tested, either.  Let's see what happens next week.  If they can beat West Virginia they'll be way ahead of track for bowl eligibility.

-- Even with my faith in Boston College I didn't expect them to beat USC, but they were doomed the moment USC trudged off the field with a loss to Washington State.  USC wasn't going to let it happen twice.

News and other stuff:

-- The men's soccer team is off to a rough 0-2 start in the ACC, but the women are on a mission.  UNC was a unanimous #1 pick in the coaches' poll last week, but Notre Dame made short work of that, and that cleared up space for at the top for UVA, your new #1 team in the country.  That's Top Drawer Soccer's ranking; the coaches' poll will be tomorrow and I'd guess UVA will be on top of that one, too.  The ACC is a minefield, of course, with five of the nation's top eight teams.  ND, UNC, Wake, and FSU share the rankings with UVA.  The girls won't play any of those teams until October 10 when they host the Irish, but this Sunday will see them on ESPN3, taking on Pitt.  I don't plan to miss it.

-- Both Perfect Game and Baseball America named Nathan Kirby the top prospect in the NECBL this summer; Cam Tekker was also PG's #10 prospect.  The NECBL is a notch below Cape Cod, but it's a quality league nonetheless.

-- In South Carolina, there's a school called North Greenville, which plays football as a D-II independent.  This school just beat the gray wool pants off of VMI this week.  VMI ran for fewer than a yard a carry, largely a factor of their inability to keep North Greenville pass rushers away from their quarterback.  Getting killed by Oregon is not a thing that would get in the way of our goals this year; not killing VMI, however, would be.

-- Friday will be an important day for Tony Bennett, as in-state prospect Robert Johnson announces his decision.  Johnson is choosing between UNC, IU, FSU, and UVA; everything I've seen suggests this one is totally up in the air.  It's not often UVA has that kind of chance against a school like IU or UNC.  Johnson is a four-star shooting guard and Rivals's #42 player in the country.

Senior Seasons:

Clearwater Central Catholic 21, Jesuit 3: Caanan Brown opened the scoring for his team, catching a 65-yard touchdown while playing tight end.  CCC is 2-1.

Peachtree Ridge 55, Duluth 17: Jordan Ellis caught a touchdown (24 yards) and ran for another (41 yards) in Peachtree Ridge's big win.  Peachtree Ridge is 3-0.

Upland 41, Jordan 0 (Jeffrey Farrar) - Upland is 1-2.
Smith 35, Cummings 21 (Will Richardson) - Cummings is 0-4.
Episcopal 34, Caravel Academy 15 (Evan Butts) - Episcopal is 3-0.
Massaponax 35, Chancellor 6 (Steven Moss) - Chancellor is 0-3.
Oscar Smith 61, Indian River 0 (Andrew Brown) - Oscar Smith is 2-0.
Salem 13, Bayside 10 (Quin Blanding) - Bayside is 2-1.

It's also time for an update to the ol' recruiting board.  I don't think we're any closer to a commitment any time soon, though.

-- Removed TE Jamal Custis (Syracuse) from green.

-- Re-added RB Madre London to yellow.

-- Added DT Ricky Walker to red.  This is an interesting one.  Our chances are pretty much terrible, Mike London not having expended much effort on this recruitment because Walker seemed exceedingly cool to his offerings.  Walker hasn't even been technically offered a scholarship yet.  But he does have a big brother - Rijo - playing at UVA, and seems to have sent the message lately that, hey, I'm listening if you're talking.  So London is talking.  We will see how this plays out, and it's likely that by this point other schools have Walker's attention too much to let go.  But as long he's uncommitted, there's at least a little bitty chance.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

the recruit: Will Richardson

Name: Will Richardson
Position: OT
Hometown: Burlington, NC
School: Cummings
Height: 6'6"
Weight: 320

24/7: 90, four stars; #22 OT, NC #10, US #247
ESPN: 83, four stars; #8 OG, NC #9, SE #71, US #129
Rivals: 5.7, three stars; #41 OT, NC #17
Scout: three stars; #86 OT

Other offers: Florida State, Virginia Tech, NC State, Louisville, Duke, Indiana, East Carolina, Ball State, Ohio

Time to take advantage of the bye week to catch up on the 2014 recruiting class.  Today we have Will Richardson, who committed in May and combines his presences with Steven Moss to give UVA a pretty formidable offensive line class even with just two members in it. 

Richardson, first off, is a large, large guy.  I put 320 up there for his weight because the sites can't agree; he's either around 305 or 335 depending on which site you ask, so I split the difference.  Either way, he's huge.  And could get even bigger if he's not careful: ESPN notes, and from the pictures that are out there, truthfully, that his frame could carry even more weight, and that Richardson will need to work to make sure he doesn't get too big and that the weight he adds is lean weight.  (It seems, in looking around, that the 305-ish figures are the more recent ones, which is good news.)

Anyway, that's a good problem in an offensive lineman, especially one as nimble as Richardson.  He played basketball for a while at Cummings, and ESPN also likes his ability to move around in space.  Richardson has been told by the coaching staff that they want him at left tackle, and it's not hard to imagine that the staff does see him as the left tackle of the future.

The guru ratings have a little bit of a wide-ish split, but I think that's explainable.  Richardson doesn't seem to have hit the camp circuit much, for one, and the fact that he's earned four-star ratings without doing so is impressive.  Also, the pessimistic one is Scout, which is the guiltiest of the four in not scouting players who aren't already big-time recruits or going to a big-time school.  Rivals is decidedly less optimistic than the other two, as well, but they still rate him pretty highly.

Offers-wise, well, I'll take anyone with an FSU and a VT offer.  Richardson didn't really allow a lot of time for many other schools to offer him, having focused a lot on FSU and UVA in his recruiting, and there's a blurb in one of the articles I read about him basically telling the UNC coaches not to bother.  Otherwise he'd almost certainly have had an offer from there, too.  Just having FSU on his list is enough to justify the four-star ratings, though.

So: future left tackle prospect if everything works out.  Massive yet nimble player who is in good enough shape to play some basketball as well as both sides of the line in football.  Oh, and he's a 3.9 student who wants to study architecture.  (We'll see about that with the time commitment and all - I can't remember a single football-playing A-schooler who was in something other than urban planning - but just remember Will Hill double-majored, one of which was bloody biology.)  What's not to like?  Just one thing: health.  Richardson tore his meniscus in Cummings's first game of the season and will probably have knee surgery.  It's not his first rodeo with the knee doctor; he also hurt it (although I don't know if it's the same one) playing basketball last winter.

Richardson's coach says he's had players have that meniscus surgery and come back in "two to three weeks" but I bet none of them weighed 300 pounds.  And the coach doesn't know when the injury happened, which is a bad sign, because it means it just happened without a big production with trainers and being helped off the field and all.  Could it be that Richardson is just too big for the stress he's putting on his knees?  Playing basketball, offensive line, defensive line, and oh yeah the shot put too?  I think that's possible.

So it's not just for mobility and strength reasons that Richardson will need to watch his weight.  The knee thing could very well linger enough to force a redshirt, even if that weren't already par for the course for O-linemen.  If he stays healthy, there's little doubt Richardson has the goods to develop into the left tackle of the future.  Both tackle second-stringers are true freshmen, so it's far too early to project their development, which means it's also awfully tough to say when Richardson might expect to see the two-deep.  Health, though, appears as if it'll be a little bit more of an effort for him than for most others.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

the recruit: Isaiah Wilkins

Name: Isaiah Wilkins
Position: PF
Hometown: Atlanta, GA (area)
School: Greater Atlanta Christian
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 200

24/7: 88, three stars; #38 SF, GA #12, US #176
ESPN: 69, two stars; #63 SF, GA #17, SE #95
Rivals: three stars; US #107
Scout: three stars

Other offers: Florida State, Miami, Clemson, VCU, Memphis, Wichita State, Mississippi State, Auburn, SMU, Charlotte, Richmond, Murray State, assorted other mid-majors

A little apprehension about the state of UVA's 2014 recruiting class is understandable; typically you see more than one commit before football season.  And in UVA's case that commit was a semi-slam dunk that came two years ago.  (Wow.)  Tony Bennett has some lines in the water, but he's also fighting some of the big boys and that tends to slow down the decision process.

So Isaiah Wilkins's commitment last week came as a little bit of a relief.  Wilkins probably popped up on UVA's radar while watching Malcolm Brogdon play at GAC; Wilkins would have been a freshman during Brogdon's senior year.  (By which time he'd already committed to UVA, yes, but it's not like they would've ignored him til signing day.)

It's totally understandable, too, if the first thing that pops to mind is "a 200-pound power forward?"  Wilkins is listed even skinnier than that in some places; as low as 185 by ESPN, which could help explain their outlier ranking.  Admittedly, Wilkins will probably never develop into a pure post banger a la Travis Watson, or Mike Scott before he developed his devastating mid-range game.  Wilkins also doesn't have the range or ball skills for the three.

However, he's otherwise a well-rounded player.  Wilkins isn't a prodigious scorer, but he does get his share of buckets.  He averaged 16 points in his junior season, which is nothing to turn your head in a high school basketball prospect.  However, he puts up good, power-forward-like numbers everywhere else: 11 rebounds a game, and nearly 5 blocks as well.  Quality numbers.

Wilkins has one other skill that's decidedly non-power-forward-like: he's a very good passer.  His 2.7 assists per game are evidence, and Rivals stated this summer that "There just aren't many forwards in the entire country that see the floor and pass the way Wilkins can."  Plus, he does have that mid-range game that can create floor-stretching matchup issues for opposing defenses.  It's not totally refined, and Wilkins himself has stated he'd like to improve his finishing.  But it's not a common skill, either.

Combine this with a 7-foot wingspan and you get a Swiss Army knife of a player.  Wilkins, naturally, has the work ethic and attitude that Tony Bennett always wants - he never takes a chance on anyone that he thinks will be a sulky locker-room issue - and comes from a state-champion program which will try to defend that title in his upcoming senior year.  He's not a major candidate for early starters' minutes as a freshman; Darion Atkins will still be around, and Anthony Gill as well, for two years.  If Wilkins develops into a starter (which is going to require extensive time in the weight room) it'll be as a junior, most likely, and it's possible he could be recruited over, too.  I do consider it a little bit of a negative that the two major instate programs, UGA and GT, didn't offer, though a large number of southern schools did.  But his sophomore year ought to see him start to carve his niche in the rotation, and truth is, there are so many players in the graduating class of 2016 (six, to be precise) that by the time Wilkins is a junior, there really won't be that many upperclassmen on the team.  If he's one of them (I hate to say "if" but transfer attrition these days, throughout college basketball really, is at absurd levels) then he'll probably be a vital piece as a junior and senior, even if he's still coming off the bench.

Monday, September 9, 2013

weekend review

I've said in the past that writing about losses is much harder than writing about wins, and now that we've just seen the single largest football defeat of the FOV era (and that's saying something) I find the trend continuing.  There's a certain je ne sais quois about a seven-score ass-whoopin' that takes all the words out of my mouth.  "Well that sucked" just doesn't have the kick to it I'd like.

In fact, I've decided the most disappointing part about the game was not anything that actually happened (playcalling, interceptions, big plays given up, etc. etc. - the problem is that there are just too many to pick one) but that they all happened with UVA wearing its classiest uniforms.  I'm glad and all that they picked a big game to wear the "traditional"** look but now they probably never will again, at least not this season.

I have to give Oregon this, too: Often, when I'm watching a blowout, it doesn't seem like one.  The losing team will just keep doing things a little bit worse than the winning team and by the end of the game it's like 45-7 and I realize, dang, that wasn't actually competitive.  No such restrictions this time.  I think it's because of the number of times we got gashed for big plays, or maybe it's because of things like big long touchdowns immediately following a pickoff, or maybe just because every time there was an important play, we came out on the wrong side of the outcome.

Complicating matters, of course, is BYU's dominating win over Texas.  I seem to recall playing really good defense against BYU.  Cougars fans must wonder how on earth they went basically nowhere against a defense that just gave up 9 yards a carry to Oregon and then exploded for 550 rushing yards against Texas.  I'm allowed to interpret this however I want, and so for my own sanity I say that we really do have a good run defense, maybe even a really good run defense, but Oregon is special and unique.  Plus also, Marcus Mariota was only 14-for-28 passing, which isn't that good, and UVA is allowing only a 40.6% completion rate to opposing quarterbacks.  David Watford's passing has been kind of crummy, and so has Logan Thomas's, and VT is allowing only a 36.8% completion rate, and so in the department of way too early predictions, that game against the Hokies is really going to put a stellar air assault on display.

Oh well.  At least Greyson Lambert didn't fire up a QB controversy, right?  Ah, that's not a nice thing to say.  I shouldn't say that.

Time for the prediction review:

-- At least two of UVA's running backs, one of which is Kevin Parks, will improve on their BYU rushing total by at least 10 yards.  Well, Khalek Shepherd did, because he carried for 46 yards with 45 of them coming on one play.  Parks did not, however.  Oregon's run defense played much better than I gave them credit for, a major reason for the blowout since UVA could accomplish very little on the ground.

-- UVA's TEs and RBs combine for more catches than their WRs.  By a lot, too.  21 to 10.  By themselves, Jake McGee and Zach Swanson fulfilled this particular prophecy.  Oregon's corners were at least as good as advertised, and I advertised them as comprising "one of the finest secondaries in the country."  Darius Jennings caught three passes for -2 yards, which is a huge statement by the Duck cornerbacks.  I didn't even realize he'd caught as many as three passes.

-- Watford throws more INTs than TDs.  Even when making this prediction I had really hoped for a better than 0-to-3 ratio, but there you are.

-- Oregon breaks at least one TD run of at least 60 yards.  Mariota's 71-yarder to open the scoring certainly qualifies.  At that point I was regretting not making the prediction "at least three runs" and if I had, I would still have given myself this one because the only reason some of those runs weren't longer is because Oregon was given such nice field position in the first place.

-- Oregon has more than twice as many rush yards as passing yards.  I thought for sure I would get this one right, but then the box score shows only 350 rush yards against 207 passing yards.  I feel like I ought to give myself this one for the very reason above, but I'll let it slide.

-- Mariota is the only Oregon QB to throw a pass. I have to give at least that much to our defense; at least we'll keep it close enough to keep the scrubs out of the game.  I blame the offense for my failure at this prediction, actually.

Going 3-for-6 this week (with one that could've easily made it four) makes me 4-for-10 so far on the season, which is a respectable start.  And I'm now 1-1 both straight up and against the spread after winning this week's bet.

Notes from the rest of the ACC:

-- I think you definitely have to give the conference some credit this year for having, now, two statement wins against the SEC, thanks to Miami this week.  The ACC-SEC battle this year has been much closer to even.  If anyone besides Syracuse would play a Big Ten team we could probably match up pretty well there, too.

-- Don't look now, but Boston College is 2-0.  Two weeks from now they'll probably be 2-2, and they still have an uphill battle for bowl eligibility, but I was feeling pretty good about myself after watching the Eagles' defense stuff Wake Forest.

-- Another team I'm feeling pretty good about, or at least, I'm feeling pretty good about my prediction about them: NC State.  Michael Strauss - the former Hoo, yes - shredded them for 300 yards, and the Pack barely escaped Richmond.

Senior Seasons feature:

Williams 39, Cummings 33: Will Richardson missed the game, his team's third straight loss to start the season.  Cummings is 0-3.

Oscar Smith 42, Lake Taylor 2: Andrew Brown had 4 TFL, 2 sacks, and forced and recovered 2 fumbles in Oscar Smith's dominating, nationally televised win over Lake Taylor.  Oscar Smith is 1-0.

Oaks Christian 57, Upland 28 (Jeffrey Farrar) - Upland is 0-2.
Tampa Catholic 13, Central Catholic 10 (Caanan Brown) - CCC is 1-1.
Episcopal Academy 21, Interboro 7 (Evan Butts) - Episcopal is 2-0.
Bayside 14, Princess Anne 0 (Quin Blanding) - Bayside is 2-0.
Eastern View 40, Chancellor 22 (Steven Moss) - Chancellor is 0-2.
Tuscarora 21, Woodgrove 14 (J.J. Jackson) - Woodgrove is 1-1.


-- In a development that surprises nobody, the VMI game will only be on ESPN3.  Two weeks from now, of course; the first bye week is next week.  Ordinarily you'd think before the VMI game is a rotten time for a bye week, but it's probably not the worst thing to have it after that Oregon game.

-- I often complain that I don't have enough of a chance to talk about soccer, thanks to a combination of it being undertelevised and overshadowed, so I took the opportunity to watch the men take on Clemson on Friday.  It didn't go well.  Overall impression was of a UVA team that had better ball skills than their opponent but was much worse at space and timing, and either chased balls they shouldn't or didn't chase ones they should.  Result: defensive breakdowns and little offensive pressure and a 2-0 loss.  I wouldn't call it discipline - more like a lack of good recognition, leading to bad spacing and being slow to realize danger on the defensive side.

There won't be a chance to watch the men's team on TV for another month, but the women will be on ESPN3 against Pitt in a couple weeks.

Friday, September 6, 2013

game preview: Oregon

Date/Time: Saturday, September 7; 3:30

TV: ABC or ESPN2 (see coverage map)

Record against the Ducks: 0-0

Last meeting: N/A

Last weekend: UVA 19, BYU 16; UO 66, Nich. St. 3

Line: Oregon by 23

Injury report: N/A

The second game of the Mike London era was a trip to Los Angeles, returning a visit to USC which they'd paid two seasons ago.  The Hoos were given no chance against the powerhouse Trojans; to the nation's surprise, UVA nearly pulled off the upset, and USC's win was greatly aided by a refereeing mistake so egregious that the Pac-10 suspended the crew.  The New London era has a similar challenge of its own in the form of the Oregon Ducks, who arrive in Charlottesville at the peak of their prowess.  UVA is probably doomed, but a lightning strike would be an instant rejuvenator for London's tenure and considerably raise the team's national profile.  Even a close loss would be a step in that direction.

-- UVA run offense vs. UO run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 20 carries, 65 yards, 3.3 ypc, 1 TD
Taquan Mizzell: 7 carries, 16 yards, 2.3 ypc, 0 TDs

UVA offense:
109 yards/game, 2.60 yards/attempt
101st of 126 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)

UO defense:
87 yards/game, 2.35 yards/attempt
19th of 126 (national), 2nd of 12 (Pac-12)

These are the standard stats I use for every preview, but yeah, they're always a little skewed around this time of year, especially if one of the teams played a 1-10 I-AA team whose only 2012 win was against a D-II squad.  Yes, that's Nicholls.  We can safely take Oregon's stellar-looking numbers with a grain of salt.

Later on, that'll be a much smaller grain; here, Oregon's run defense is coming off a season in which they posted very average numbers, and is in some transition, personnel-wise.  Despite the low rushing totals for Nicholls, Oregon appeared occasionally vulnerable to the running skills of Nicholls's mobile quarterback, and allowed three yards a carry to their running back.  That would be a number worthy of a pat on the back against most I-A opponents; against the worst I-AA team you could find, that might just prove that UVA can find a little room.

Oregon looks like it has a pretty good linebacker in Derrick Malone, who made 11 stops last week and got his nose into the play fairly often off the bench last season.  Oregon's other linebackers, though, are less effective, and the Ducks lost a lot of talent to graduation last year.  Up front, the linemen are a mix of experience and highly touted youth, the latter exemplified by DT Arik Armstead, Oregon's top 2012 recruit.  Armstead, however, was nigh-invisible against Nicholls; the stars of the Oregon D-line were on the end, the spots occupied by Tony Washington and Taylor Hart.  Hart is a legitimately excellent and disruptive SDE who will be a tremendously difficult matchup for our tight ends and will probably have to be doubled on most plays.  Any matchups between him and Morgan Moses will be crucial, and highly determinant of UVA's success or failure.

Last week, UVA was unable to consistently establish a run, but did open enough holes to offer hope for the future.  Oregon is a more traditional 4-3 than what BYU brought to the table, and the commentators correctly noted that having Luke Bowanko and Morgan Moses on the same side gives UVA at least one side they can run to with confidence, until the rest of the line establishes itself.  Oregon offers a little bit of a pick-your-poison, since Malone is on the weak side and Hart the strong side; these are shaping up as two of Oregon's best defenders, and Washington as a WDE is also a solid player.

At any rate, I like UVA's chances of moving the ball some.  Probably more than they did against BYU, since, at least for the early portions of the game, UVA will be acclimated to the level of competition.  I think at least two of UVA's three backs, Kevin Parks being one of them, will add 10-15 yards to their totals from last weekend.  We're not talking anything spectacular yet, but the whole world knows that "controlling the ball" is a key for UVA, and this is the most favorable matchup of the four.

-- UVA pass offense vs. UO pass defense

David Watford: 18/32, 56.3%; 114 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; 3.56 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Darius Jennings: 7 rec., 62 yards, 1 TD
Zachary Swanson: 3 rec, 21 yards, 0 TD

UVA offense:
114 yards/game, 3.6 yards/attempt
116th of 126 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

UO defense:
256 yards/game, 5.1 yards/attempt
33rd of 126 (national), 5th of 12 (Pac-12)

For obvious reasons, teams pass the ball a lot against Oregon.  Only five teams (two of which were Oklahoma State and Stanford) faced more pass attempts than the Ducks last season.  According to the silly per-game stats that announcers insist on using, they're a pedestrian pass defense, but they did a much better job than that last season, ending up 7th in the country.

Oregon boasts a pair of excellent cornerbacks in Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.  Mitchell is very good, but Ekpre-Olomu is the star, earning first-team all-conference honors last season, and with good reason: he picked off four passes and broke up 16 more.  Safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson are high-quality players too; Patterson, playing free safety, returned two interceptions to the house last season.  Altogether it's one of the finest secondaries in the country.  Additionally, SLB Boseko Lokombo plays a pretty good pass defense and intercepted two passes of his own last year.

This is where those defensive ends come into play too: Taylor Hart is a nasty pass rusher, with eight sacks last season.  Tony Washington is liable to pick up quite a few as well; in general, this is a front seven that does better when they're attacking the passer than in the run game.

UVA's receivers have some redemption to do after last week.  Darius Jennings had a decent game, but Tim Smith decidedly did not.  This will be a tough group to do it against, and if David Watford thought last week was tough, he's got a whole new challenge in front of him.  UVA is going to need a couple big plays here if they can get them, but will probably have to rely on dump-offs again and is not likely to consistently find success.  Last week the tight ends combined for six catches; I'd look for that kind of production again, as well as a strong appearance from the running backs in this regard, mostly as safety valves.

-- UO run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
De'Anthony Thomas: 18 carries, 128 yards, 7.1 ypc, 2 TDs
Byron Marshall: 8 carries, 124 yards, 15.5 ypc, 1 TD

UO offense:
500 yards/game, 11.11 yards/attempt
1st of 126 (national), 1st of 12 (Pac-12)

UVA defense:
187 yards/game, 3.53 yards/attempt
51st of 126 (national), 7th of 14 (ACC)

Yes, the 500 yards Oregon's rushing offense racked up last week came against a terrible opponent.  No, you're not allowed to care: despite losing Chip Kelly to the NFL, Oregon is still Oregon.  Fundamentally, they're not actually that different from Georgia Tech: read-option plays are the bread-and-butter of the offense, and they pass only once you've been sucked in to try and defend the run.

Oregon is more balanced than GT is, though (not saying much, there) and, of course, the thing that makes their offense put up so many gaudy numbers is the no-huddle system they run.  Yes, UVA got a little practice defending the no-huddle last week.  Now they get to try their hand at defending against a team that can actually execute it.  UVA looked pretty good last week, but Oregon's no-huddle is a well-oiled machine with way better athletes running it.

Oregon's option is so dangerous because the guy in charge of it, quarterback Marcus Mariota, is such a dangerous athlete.  He's a big, long-striding runner and every bit as capable of breaking a long one as primary running back De'Anthony Thomas, a lightning-quick scatback who's been playing second fiddle for two years but is more than ready for first chair.  Oregon always keeps a full stable of backs that can break a big play and uses them heavily, so even with Thomas out of the game, the situation changes little.

The O-line is a tough nut to crack, too.  Hroniss Grasu is a Rimington watch-list center who jumped immediately into the starting lineup as a true freshman; he's now a junior.  Tackles Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher are athletic and youngish but very talented; if there's any hole on the line, it might - might - be at guard, where the starters are upperclassmen (Manu Grieg is a senior and Hamani Stevens is an old junior a couple years removed from his Mormon mission) but relatively inexperienced.

Many of the principles of defending the no-huddle will remain the same from last week to this, so the experience is not without value.  However, the defense has to limit big plays; Oregon's 40+ point games come when the option by itself is all they need to gash defenses for 50 yards or more.  The tackles must beat their man inside, and the linebackers have to run, fast and at the right gap.  Eli Harold has a chance to be a game-changer with his athleticism, as does Demeitre Brim; their speed is going to be crucial to match the pace at which Oregon will move.

-- UO pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Marcus Mariota: 12/21, 57.1%; 234 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs; 11.14 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Josh Huff: 5 rec., 118 yards, 0 TDs
Bralon Addison: 2 rec., 42 yards, 1 TD

UO offense:
272 yards/game, 10.5 yards/attempt
19th of 126 (national), 2nd of 12 (Pac-12)

UVA defense:
175 yards/game, 4.4 yards/attempt
16th of 126 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

Jon Tenuta's defense is predicated on putting the cornerbacks on an island so that the linebackers and even safeties can be used in the most aggressive manner possible.  Safety blitz woo!  That's more or less how you have to attack Oregon's offense: push the button and pray.

As a passer, Mariota was highly efficient last year, but not a big-play quarterback.  Big plays come in the running game.  Oregon passes to keep you honest, not necessarily because they hope you forgot about their receivers the way GT does.  Josh Huff is an accomplished receiver, but without the gaudy numbers of the Oregon running backs.  The Oregon receiving corps in general is fairly deep, and Mariota spreads the ball around so that nobody (besides Huff, sorta) dominates the receptions category.

Possibly contrary to expectations of a new-wave speed-based offense, Oregon does use a tight end, though often more as an H-back who can carry the ball and catch it, too.  The primary threat in this regard is tight end Colt Lyerla.  Adding to the danger factor and versatility, De'Anthony Thomas is a big receiving threat; more so, in fact, than Oregon's previous feature backs, Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James.  Thomas led the Ducks in receptions last year despite being only third in carries (behind Barner and Mariota.)

There are, of course, obvious differences between that GT triple-option and Oregon's style, but there's a big similarity in how to beat them: have your cornerbacks dominate the one-on-one coverage and free up your strong safety to crash the line and find the ball.  I like that ours are up to the task; Huff is a decent receiver but not a dominant one, and our cornerbacks may well have the advantage in the matchup over their receivers.  Mariota is very good at taking what you give him in the passing game, but UVA will take it if his passes stay underneath.

-- Favorability ratings

A new thing I'm introducing this year. This is a 0-10 scale; 5 means evenly balanced, 0 means we're totally screwed, and 10 means the other guy is.

UVA run offense: 5
UVA pass offense: 2.5
UVA run defense: 2
UVA pass defense: 4.5

Average: 3.5

-- Outlook

Things could be better, for sure.  Even in those areas of the game where we match up best, we don't match up especially well.  To win, UVA must pound, pound, pound the ball, and find ways to reel off seven-minute drives that end in a score; they must be able to leave the cornerbacks all on their own and be able to consistently keep eight in the box; and they must, obviously, win the turnover battle and avoid giving up big plays.  Oregon's pass defense seems likely to swallow up David Watford, especially if our receivers can't help him out any.  There are things that UVA can exploit to keep it close, but the real challenge is being able to do that all game long and hold off the dogs in the areas where Oregon obviously dominates - also all game long.  If UVA can simply beat the spread, it should be an eye-opener.

-- Prediction summary

-- At least two of UVA's running backs, one of which is Kevin Parks, will improve on their BYU rushing total by at least 10 yards.

-- UVA's TEs and RBs combine for more catches than their WRs.

-- Watford throws more INTs than TDs.

-- Oregon breaks at least one TD run of at least 60 yards.

-- Oregon has more than twice as many rush yards as passing yards.

-- Mariota is the only Oregon QB to throw a pass.  I have to give at least that much to our defense; at least we'll keep it close enough to keep the scrubs out of the game.

-- Final score: UO 47, UVA 21

-- Rest of the ACC:

Wake Forest @ Boston College - Fri., 8:00 - We'll quickly find out if my preseason faith in BC is misplaced or not.

Miami vs. Florida - 12:00 - Florida ground out a victory last week, and could be ripe for an upset in this underplayed rivalry.

North Carolina vs. Middle Tennessee - 12:30 - With all the talk about Jadeveon Clowney being gassed, you'd think it was UNC dominating last week's game.  It wasn't.

Clemson vs. South Carolina State - 12:30 - Clemson takes on the Walkin' Bulldogs after dispatching the regular ones.

Virginia Tech vs. Western Carolina - 1:30 - The Catamounts use the same purple and gold colors as James Madison.  I don't bring this up for any particular reason, really.

Maryland vs. Old Dominion - 4:00 - Root for everyone against Maryland, even those teams which aspire to rise up and be a major threat to our in-state recruiting success.

Duke @ Memphis - 4:30 - Memphis is kind of a perennially lousy football team that sits in fertile recruiting ground and therefore has little excuse to be that way.

Syracuse @ Northwestern - 6:00 - This game probably won't be any easier than the Penn State one for Cuse, and might be harder.

NC State vs. Richmond - 6:00 - Go pick on the I-AA teams from your own state.

Bye weeks: GT, Pitt