Thursday, November 23, 2017

Rivalry Week UVA preview

Virginia Tech looks to get it's fourteenth straight victory against Virginia.

By: Adam Pace
November 23, 2017

(Photo: Virginia Tech Athletics/Dave Knachel)
It's that time of the year everyone, rivalry week in college football. Virginia Tech and Virginia will renew yet another battle on Friday and although it's been a lop sided one, it is still one of the better rivalry games in college football. 2003 was the last time the Cavaliers were able to top the Hokies and while there have been a few blowouts during that time, most of these games are very close and decided at the end. While the Hokies may have better overall talent, this year just feels like it could be the one that Virginia could end the streak. Let's break it down.....

The Hoos

Virginia rolls into this one with a record of 6-5. They have lost four of their last five but at times they have looked like a pretty good football team. They are led on offense by quarterback Kurt Benkert, who is having a pretty good year. Benkert is a true gunslinger who has good arm strength and isn't afraid to try to force one in a tight window. He has 2,876 yards with 25 touchdowns to eight interceptions. UVA has found success at throwing the ball deep down field this year. They will throw short out routes and dumps to the running backs to draw you in and then hit you deep over the top when you least expect it. 

The running game for the Cavs has been lacking to put it nicely. Their running game ranks 119th in the nation and their second best runner this year is wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. Zaccheaus is a great weapon for UVA and will line up everywhere on Friday but the fact he is being used to help the running game tells you everything you need to know. With the lack of a running game, the Cavs offense is very limited in what they can accomplish. If Tech can stop the big plays from UVA, they have a great chance to come away with a victory.

On defense UVA is a solid group from a statistical stand point ranking 33rd in the nation in total defense. However, they do have a tendency to give up a lot of points. In the last five games they have allowed an average of 36 points per game and 414 yards per game. While this unit is good, it seems you can move the ball on them and score points.

(Photo: Virginia Tech Athletics/Dave Knachel)
How to keep the streak alive

Virginia Tech's troubles with injuries continued against Pitt last week and the Hokies have now lost defensive end Vinny Mihota for the season. There are also a few more guys who are banged up and we aren't sure if they will play or not on Friday night. With that many guys banged up the question is, what do the Hokies need to do to win? First and foremost, Tech has to stop the big play. When UVA was finding success against Miami last week it was with big passing plays down the sideline. While I do feel confident in Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson to stop the plays down the line, I'm a little worried about the big plays over the middle. Mook Reynolds isn't a 100% and is questionable for Friday. While his back up Ladler has talent, his experience is limited and UVA could try to take advantage of that. It will be interesting to see if these young players can step up and not allow the Hoos to have big plays.

On offense I want to see the Hokies build off of their running success last week. Deshawn McClease had a good game and Jalen Holston ran the ball with confidence as well. Rumor has it that Steven Peoples might try to give it a go on Friday and we can only hope he his healthy again. Peoples just brings something to this offense that it has been missing since he went down in September. If Tech can run the ball well on Friday it also helps to take the pressure off of Jackson and company in the passing game. 

One thing I noticed during the first half last week was Cam Phillips was playing more in the slot. With Eric Kumah progressing and now Phil Patterson coming along, Phillips and Savoy might be able to play their natural slot positions more. I have been wondering what this offensive staff might do to try to get this offense rolling again and moving Cam into the slot, might be what does the trick. Phillips had a huge finish to the season last year when playing the slot and maybe we can find a little bit more of that magic to end this year on a high note.

Special teams play could be the biggest factor in this one when it is all said and done. With UVA giving up so many points over the last five games, the Hokies will need to keep themselves in good field position Friday. Oscar Bradburn continued his great season last week and hopefully he can keep the mojo going in this one. I was also very impressed with Brian Johnson stepping in for the injured Joey Slye last week and Tech will need one of them to continue the solid play this game. In a tight game like this one will probably be, special teams can be the deciding factor.


This one has me very worried. Although UVA lost last week to Miami, the Hoos have a lot of confidence right now and the Hokies have a lot of key players out. This one just has the making of an upset. Tech will need to make sure they limit the big passing plays from UVA and keep the pressure on Benkert to release the ball early. With all of that said, I feel like Tech's offense is going to move the ball this week. UVA has a good defense but if you can run on them, you can score a lot of points. McClease looked good last week and if Peoples plays, I like our chance on the ground. While I am worried about this one, I'm just not sure UVA can pull it off. Give me Virginia Tech to pull away late in the fourth quarter and win this one 31-21. Let's Go.....

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