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WTWF: Virginia Cavaliers

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Two pressure defenses face off Saturday afternoon. Which offense will be able to make the most plays might be the key to the game.

Andy Lyons

VIRGINIA'S OUTSIDE PASS RUSH

Virginia defensive end Eli Harold and outside linebacker Max Valles have done an excellent job this year as wide outside rushers in passing situations. Both have used their speed well to just flat out blow buy offensive tackles. This has not only helped them get to the quarterback, it has also widened the pocket and given more space for the other defensive linemen and blitzers to operate. Jon Tenuta is known for his blitz packages and these guys combine for 4.5 sacks is a byproduct of that.

Ryan Mack has struggled in the past with speed rushers. He's a big guy that does well with run blocking and larger defensive ends. However, Valles is more in the mold of Lorenzo Mauldin. He's long and gets off the ball extremely well. If there is a matchup that could hinder the offense, it is Valles against Mack. Louisville might give him help with a tight end lined up on his side to widen Valles even more, but with Gardner being so reliant on Gerald Christian I doubt Petrino will keep him in to block much.

LOUISVILLE'S PRESSURE VS. VIRGINIA'S ANEMIC OFFENSE

Virginia has only had a few plays that have gone for more than 20 yards this season. They rely on a solid running game, screen passes, and lots of shallow crossing routes with picks. Matt Johns came on in relief in the UCLA game and immediately completed two go routes for touchdowns. It makes sense why a lot of their fanbase wants him to be the guy. Kevin Parks is a playmaker at running back but as saw with Duke Johnson Louisville's defense can really do a great job of containing a talented running back. For Virginia to have success on offense they will have to exploit Louisville's questionable secondary play. They haven't been tested much, but there have been instances of receivers getting open down the field.

FIELD POSITION

Both Virginia and Louisville have defenses based on pressure and forcing turnovers. Louisville hasn't been as successful at turning teams over, but they have used their pressure to shutdown opponents on third down forcing a punt. On the other hand, Virginia has forced 9 turnovers this year with gang tackling and a few timely interceptions. Virginia's offense needs the help of field position to create short fields that will hopefully at least turn into a field goal. Louisville's offense has looked best in the opponents half of the field. The shorter the field it has to work with, the more pressure that is put on Virginia's defense.

BIG PLAYS

Louisville is one of four 2-0 teams in the country that doesn't have a single pass play of 30+ yards this season. I don't think anyone predicted that when Bobby Petrino was hired. The running game has had a handful of big plays and the offense has controlled the clock through the first two games. The loss of DeVante Parker is a big factor in the lack of big plays in the passing game but James Quick and Kai De La Cruz were expected to be able to soften that blow. Virginia is the first defense Louisville will face that lives on pressure. They will put their secondary in a position where they have to make a play with little to no help. This could be the week where Will Gardner's arm strength could be showcased.

Virginia will have to get the ball down the field if it expects Todd Grantham to call off his dogs at any point in the game. Louisville is allowing 2.5 yards a carry and Kevin Parks and company haven't had a great start to the season running the ball. The Cavaliers have a ton of size on the outside and Louisville has given up big plays in the passing game as well as some near misses in the Miami game. Virginia hasn't shown a consistent ability to push the ball down the field for the last few seasons. With Mike London sitting on such a hot seat, this is a game that could really cool things down for him. To get that win he will probably have to step out of his comfort zone.