Thursday, October 16, 2014
game preview: Duke
Date/Time: Saturday, October 18; 12:30
Record against the Blue Devils: 33-32
Last meeting: Duke 35, UVA 22; 10/19/13, Charlottesville
Last weekend: UVA bye; Duke 31, GT 25
Line: Duke by 2.5
OUT: OG Ryan Doull, C Jackson Matteo, CB Demetrious Nicholson, OG Jay Whitmire
OUT: TE Dan Bellinson, CB Johnathan Lloyd, OL Trip McNeill, DT Jamal Wallace, LB Kelby Brown, TE Braxton Deaver, DE Taariq Shabazz
PROBABLE: DE Dezmond Johnson, RB Shaq Powell
Duke has a good football team these days. Eight years ago, that was the first definition in the dictionary under "unthinkable." Right underneath was the idea that any ACC team might lose five out of six to them. And let's be honest: I'm still not used to it. The good news is, if we lose again, we can walk out muttering "just wait til basketball season" and mean it.
-- UVA run offense vs. Duke run defense
Kevin Parks: 104 carries, 427 yards, 4.1 ypc, 3 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 42 carries, 173 yards, 4.1 ypc, 2 TDs
177.0 yards/game, 4.23 yards/attempt
73rd of 128 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)
202.33 yards/game, 4.56 yards/attempt
85th of 128 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)
Ryan Doull's unexpected appearance on the injury report is a medium-serious blow to the running game and a pretty solid hit to the already razor-thin depth on the OL. Doull will probably be replaced by Cody Wallace, who's been in and out of the lineup most of his career - and mostly out this year. Wallace has always been marginal at best; the fact that Doull jumped all the way from kick protection to starting lineup, past Wallace in his fifth year, is not a ringing endorsement of Wallace's skills.
The good news is Duke's defense, which is junk. Elon - a 1-5 I-AA team - sent their backs through the Duke defense for 5.4 yards a carry, sacks excluded. Tulane's top two backs combined for 6.5. Duke's defense wasn't great last year, either; losing top linebacker Kelby Brown really hurt. Jeremy Cash at safety is a very good run-stopper and basically a linebacker, but he can't do it all himself. Duke's defensive front line is somewhat undersized and not very good.
So it's a resistible-force vs. movable-object kind of matchup. It doesn't take a running game like Miami's to tear up the Duke defense (although they did as well.) I've said that UVA could ride Kevin Parks to a pretty successful run game if the O-line could get just a little bit of push and let Parks build up momentum as he hit the line. That could be illustrated this week, even with a depleted line, and the fact that UVA's playcalling has skewed to the run side of things should help even more. Duke's incredible-shreddable defense should probably let Parks roll to a second straight 100-yard game.
-- UVA pass offense vs. Duke pass defense
Matt Johns: 60/102, 58.8%; 687 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs; 6.74 ypa
Greyson Lambert: 63/97, 64.9%; 564 yards, 2 TDs, 4 INTs; 5.81 ypa
Canaan Severin: 21 rec., 255 yards, 2 TDs
Taquan Mizzell: 21 rec., 99 yards, 0 TDs
Miles Gooch: 17 rec., 220 yards, 1 TD
220.7 yards/game, 6.49 yards/attempt
95th of 128 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)
184.5 yards/game, 5.62 yards/attempt
13th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)
That defense that's been so friendly to run games, though, has tightened up against the pass. Duke runs a nickel package almost exclusively and they have the safety depth to do it. Cash is just a good defender regardless of what the offense is doing, and DeVon Edwards is an excellent complement. There isn't much of a pass rush, but DE Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo provides a decent challenge there.
Greyson Lambert isn't on the injury report. He'll almost certainly get the start, but nobody really knows what London is thinking when it comes to the hook. You know my thoughts: let the starter play. Johns has done a solid job, but Lambert, I think, has done a little bit of a better job taking care of the ball (you'll remember, his first two picks weren't his fault.)
That'll be the main thing here. Duke's inability to stop the run could open up certain passing opportunities as well, little screens and such, the sort of thing that Steve Fairchild tries in order to put the ball in Taquan Mizzell's hands in space. Lambert should usually have time, as well. Duke's numbers have come largely against crap offenses - Kansas and Tulane in particular really suck at passing the ball - but they've at least stopped them, unlike in the run game. In Tulane's case, the Blue Devil defense took two interceptions all the way back. If the running game can get moving like I think, Lambert's main job will be zero INTs. Not easy, against a quality group of safeties, but I don't think much will be asked of him.
-- Duke run offense vs. UVA run defense
Josh Snead: 49 carries, 256 yards, 5.2 ypc, 2 TDs
Shaun Wilson: 43 carries, 466 yards, 10.8 ypc, 4 TDs
228.5 yards/game, 5.83 yards/attempt
12th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)
91.5 yards/game, 2.72 yards/attempt
4th of 128 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)
Duke's run game has been enormously successful, frankly, and it doesn't matter who carries the ball. They spread it out a ton. Freshman Shaun Wilson piled up 245 yards on just 12 carries against the admittedly pitiful Kansas Jayhawks. Josh Snead and Shaq Powell have been very solid backs throughout their careers. And Duke likes to run their quarterbacks plenty as well; Anthony Boone is mobile enough, but Duke has packages as well for Thomas Sirk, an excellent runner with good size.
Of course, the one time Duke went against a decent defense, they got snuffed pretty good. That was Miami - the game was played in a drenching downpour, but Miami did alright on the ground. Duke does have a pretty solid offensive line, but I think you might have been introduced before to the UVA front six-or-seven. Pitt's James Conner certainly was.
The main thing for UVA will be to sniff out the various looks Duke will throw at them, especially when Sirk enters the game. Duke's O-line is good and will win their share of battles, making the linebackers and Quin Blanding pretty important. And that should make Duke fans nervous.
-- Duke pass offense vs. UVA pass defense
Anthony Boone: 121/210, 57.6%; 1,186 yards, 8 TDs, 3 INTs; 5.65 ypa
Jamison Crowder: 32 rec., 372 yards, 2 TDs
Max McCaffrey: 23 rec., 236 yards, 3 TDs
Issac Blakeney: 19 rec., 212 yards, 3 TDs
205.5 yards/game, 5.50 yards/attempt
122nd of 128 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)
239.3 yards/game, 6.81 yards/attempt
54th of 128 (national), 8th of 14 (ACC)
Statistically, Anthony Boone appears to have taken a step backwards from last year, a worrying sign given Duke's competition so far (remember, GT's defense = not that good.) Six and a half percentage points worse in the completion department, a yard and a half worse per attempt. This is the one point where we'll make a big allowance for the rainstorm in Miami, though - even though it was only during the second half. Take away Boone's Miami stats and he's still worse, but not appreciably.
Still, perhaps this will be a telling stat: the WRs' yards per catch. UVA fans at times bemoan a dink-and-dunk approach, but every one of UVA's top four wide receivers (RBs not included) has a higher per-catch average than every one of Duke's top four. Duke and dunk.
This is reflected in Duke's pass protection stats; they've only allowed four sacks all season, which is a testament to the O-line, the mobility of the quarterbacks, and the quickness with which they get rid of the ball. Duke will probably try and drop the ball off even quicker given UVA's blitzy pass rush. There could be some plays where that burns us - slant routes and the like - so safety play will be huge. The other important thing is not getting sucked in on Sirk packages, although he hasn't completed a pass since the Kansas game (third of the season) and isn't guaranteed to even try a pass here.
-- Favorability ratings:
UVA run offense: 6
UVA pass offense: 4
UVA run defense: 6.5
UVA pass defense: 6
It's certainly possible I'm just getting sucked in to the excitement of novel ideas like a winning record, but - I'm not impressed with Duke's schedule, I'm not impressed with their results, with scores that belie a lack of statistical dominance, and I'm not impressed with their front six. And I'm like a tweenage girl at a One Direction concert for the front line of our defense.
So I'm optimistic. Any time a team faces us with a bad defense and a good offense, rather than the other way round, we have at least a chance and probably more. UVA's defense isn't good enough to carry the offense through every single game, but this one - I'd say yes.
-- Kevin Parks runs for over 100 yards.
-- Greyson Lambert (or our starting quarterback) attempts fewer than 20 passes.
-- UVA loses the turnover battle.
-- Duke's run game is more than a yard worse than their average.
-- Quin Blanding has 10 or more tackles.
-- UVA wins time of possession by six or more minutes.
Final score: UVA 28, Duke 17
-- Rest of the ACC
Virginia Tech @ Pittsburgh - Thu., 7:30 - I've been watching this game all evening, and Tech's offense is pitiful and the Hokies are basically getting dominated, but I've never seen a team blow stuff up in its own face like Pitt is doing.
Syracuse @ Wake Forest - 12:00 - A pair of 0-2 teams battle. Critical game for Cuse if they're going to salvage bowl eligibility.
Clemson @ Boston College - 3:30 - Clemson is favored, but only by 4.5; a huge game if they want to try and stay in shouting distance of FSU.
NC State @ Louisville - 3:30 - The Pack started 4-0 and are now 4-3, staring at 4-4, proving that you can "schedule for success" and still be a total embarrassment.
Georgia Tech @ North Carolina - 7:00 - I may actually Tivo this one in hopes that the final score is like 84-77.
Florida State vs. Notre Dame - 8:00 - Whoever wins has a very, very inside track for inclusion in the four-team playoff.