We're less than 48 hours away from toe meeting leather inside Scott Stadium, which makes this the perfect time to bring in some expert help. Today that comes in the form of Paul Wiley, one of the proprietors SB Nation's Streaking the Lawn, which covers all things Virginia.
We sat down, enjoyed a cup of coffee, discussed our shared disappointment in the Lifetime Saved by the Bell movie, as well as the following items...
CC: After the debacle that was last season, how uplifting has it been to see Virginia hang with a top 10 team and then win a game by 32 points? Do you think this is a legitimate bowl team, or are you sort of reserving a judgment like that until after Saturday?
STL: The start to this year, for some reason, feels an awful lot like the start of last year. One Beat-em-like-we-should-have game (VMI last year, Richmond this year), one That-went-better-than-expected game (BYU last year, UCLA this year). The good news this year is that we don't have to play Oregon before getting into the heart of our schedule and finding out where this team really ought to stack up.
Personally, I'm reserving judgment until we see how our offense performs against ACC-quality competition. I don't think there's any question this defense can play with anybody in the country this year. The season comes down to whether or not the offense will be just dead weight, or if it can take advantage of good field position and turnovers.
CC: Your thoughts on the two-quarterback system and what Louisville fans can expect to see from Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns?
STL: We have debated this and gone round and round on it over at Streaking the Lawn. I think I'm pretty far out toward the "play Lambert, and ONLY Lambert" school of thought. Most other folks line up behind Matt Johns or some hybrid approach. Johns is more agile and more prone to scramble or make plays with his feet. Lambert isn't a total statue and can stay alive in the pocket long enough to make something happen with his arm. I'd rather see us settle on a play-caller and let the offense find its rhythm around him.
CC: In the move to the ACC, Louisville lost a series with its most-played rival in Cincinnati, and UVA lost a series with a regional rival in Maryland. Looking at the basketball and football schedules, it's pretty obvious that the league is trying to make Cards versus Cavs a thing. Do you think there's any hope for us? Should we start hating each other now or just wait and see what happens?
STL: It's hard to hate Louisville. I mean, y'all sit in the middle of the Bourbon Trail and we have a drinking song with the lyrics, "For those who hail from U-V-A/Both rural folks and urban/The king of distillations is/The whiskey known as bourbon." So if nothing else, we've got that to share. From what I've been told, it's a little easier to hate U.Va. If we make snide comments about your academics or why lacrosse is the only sport that truly matters, just throw a bottle of Zima over our heads to distract us.
CC: The Virginia defense has produced a remarkable amount of turnovers (seven last week alone), but also let Richmond chalk up 422 yards of offense a week ago. Is this the product of a "go hard and make a big play or give up a play" philosophy from Jon Tenuta? Or is one of those statistics just a bit misleading?
STL: The yardage stat is misleading. A lot of it was in garbage time once they were down 20-plus. A lot of their turnovers came in our defensive half of the field, stopping drives that had gone 30 or 40 yards. Tenuta does call a defense that prefers going for the jugular and getting a turnover to giving up exactly three yards on each of the first three downs and forcing a punt. The big difference this year is having the athletes to execute it who also have experience in the system.
CC: Any quick tips or suggestions for Louisville fans making the trip to Charlottesville?
STL: If you like to eat, welcome to Shangri-La. Charlottesville has more restaurants per capita than New York City. With so much farmland in the surrounding counties, there's a really big farm-to-table/locavore movement. The Downtown Mall is a pedestrian-only area with tons of great places to eat, shop, or catch some music. The Belmont neighborhood is just off the Downtown Mall and has exploded with fun new restaurants over the past few years. If you want the University scene, head over to The Corner (intersection of W Main St and 14th St, over to the intersection of University Ave and Rugby Road).
If you hit the Corner, a grills-with at The White Spot is an old-school UVa staple: two doughnuts grilled on a flat-top and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My grandfather got one at University Diner in the 1950s, my parents got them at University Diner in the 1980s, and (now that U.Diner closed) I got them at The White Spot in the 2000s. Grab one, then head around the way to St. Maarten's, the watering hole favorited by many of the Streaking the Lawn staff.
STL: I don't see Virginia's offense being able to do much against Louisville's defense. Watching Petrino vs. Tenuta is going to be a fun chess match to observe on the other side of the ball. If the Cavalier front 7 can take advantage of Louisville's holes on the offensive line and pressure Will Gardner, it could be a really close game. I think it stays close for three-plus quarters in a tight, defensive affair. I'm going to say 19-13 Louisville, with some weird happenings along the way.