The Virginia Cavaliers come to town to take on the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday afternoon. To get primed for this game, we did a home and home Q&A with Paul Wiley of Streaking The Lawn. You can read my answers to his questions here.
Paul's answers about Virginia are below:
State of the U: How do you feel about the Cavaliers to this point of the season? At 3-5, are they better than, worse than, or about what you thought they'd be heading into the season?
Streaking the Lawn: [Shrug emoji]. They're playing the same, mostly braindead brand of football I've gotten used to but never really accepted in the Mike London era. There's enough talent on the roster that sometimes that brand of football stumbles its way into a win. Against equally talented teams, it's resulted in losses, and against teams with superior talent and/or superior coaching, it's resulted in blowouts (see, e.g., Boise State). Virginia has won the games I expected them to, plus last week against Georgia Tech. Having an outside shot at a bowl game with 4 games left is, unfortunately, pretty much par for the course under London.
SOTU: QB Matt Johns and RB Taquan Mizzel shredded the Canes in last year's game. How have they played through the first 8 games of the 2015 season?
STL: Up and down would be the best way to describe it. Johns played lights out early: his game against Notre Dame played a big part of the Hoos being in it until the end. But he's had mistake-prone games as well (again, see, e.g., Boise State). His improvisational skills have kept plays alive behind a sometimes-shaky offensive line, and he's got enough big-play guys down the field that he can buy time for them to break open. Mizzell has had the same roller-coaster, though it's been more of a positive trend. The Hoos have started to find their identity as a run-based offense the last few games, rushing for over 200 yards against both UNC and Georgia Tech. Mizzell's development into a cut-and-go runner, instead of dancing in the backfield, has been a big part of that.
SOTU: Who else on the Virginia offense makes plays that we should know about?
STL: There's a stable of running backs who have sort of taken turns having big games. Daniel Hamm and Olamide Zaccheaus (yes, that is a real name) each bring some change of pace from Mizzell. Hamm is a powerful up-the-middle-back, while O.Z. has done most of his damage on end-arounds and outside play. Zaccheaus is also a more sure-handed receiver; he's actually been listed on the depth chart as a WR. Speaking of WR, Canaan Severin and TJ Thorpe are the guys the Canes will need to watch out for. They'll remember Severin from last year's game, with the ridiculous one-handed TD catch that was all over SportsCenter. Thorpe transferred to Virginia from UNC and has become a much bigger part of the offense in recent weeks after missing the start of the season with a broken collarbone. If either or both of them can command double-teams, the RBs and TEs should find space for Johns to work the ball underneath.
SOTU: Talk to me about the defense. Who are the playmakers and what do you think of the D overall?
STL: Jon Tenuta is crazy aggressive with his blitzing schemes. The linebackers are the focal point of the defense, which is part of why the Hoos have struggled this year: Virginia's LBs are among the most inexperienced position groups. But Micah Kiser has been the star of the D so far in 2015, and the guys around him are starting to look more comfortable in their roles. One guy to keep an eye on is DE Trent Corney. Corney is an athletic freak (a video circulated on Instagram of him jumping flat-footed out of a swimming pool) but hasn't put the mental side with the physical so far in his time in Charlottesville. That changed against Georgia Tech. His ability to set the edge and pursue Justin Thomas was a huge part of why Virginia won that game. If he's put it all together... watch out.
SOTU: While the series is tied at 6-6, Virginia has won 4 of the last 5 games between these teams. What about these teams has made Virginia so successful in these games recently?
STL: [Double shrug emoji]. Seriously. I have no earthly idea how this has happened. That's probably not too palatable for Miami fans who pointed at Golden's record vs. Virginia as a reason the man sucked and had to go. I don't think Virginia's offense had an inherent advantage on Golden's defense. It's one of the more inexplicable things in the ACC, if not all of college football, over the last half-decade.
SOTU: Lastly, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?
STL: I expect Miami to have a bit of a hangover. We saw it first hand with Georgia Tech after their FSU win. I think Kaaya will want to prove he's back and fine and may force the issue a time or two; I expect him to hit for at least a few big plays but also make one or two turnovers. But Virginia hasn't won on the road in three years. That bogeyman is hard to shake. I think the Hoos have a good chance at winning but don't feel terribly confident they will. I'll go Miami 24, UVa 22
We thank Paul for giving us his insight into the Virginia Cavaliers. You can check his work, and see all kinds of Virginia related content over at Streaking The Lawn.