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Key Matchups: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia doesn't have great weapons on offense. Louisville's defense should be able to avoid the big plays this week.

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports


Virginia has one chance to slow down Louisville's offense and that's by making Lamar Jackson beat them with his arm. "Chance" is the key word in that last sentence with Jackson's last outing being his best passing game of the season. Virginia can put Louisville into second/third and longs by forcing the running game in between the tackles. Louisville is suuccessful on offense because they kill you in so many different ways. Being able to keep them between the tackles takes away an option.

The way that Virginia can try and make these things happen is by utilizing their best player as a contain man. You can't spy Lamar Jackson in the running game. What you can do is devote a player at 10 yards in run situations to just play downhill on Jackson on run plays. Quin Blanding is the perfect guy for this role. He's fast enough to get to the spot quickly and he is an excellent tackler, especially in space. Look, you're not going to stop Louisville's offense. But it makes no sense to let the best player do what he does best against you. It's idiotic, really. Why not devote a guy just to stopping him, situationally?


Virginia's offense is similair to NC State in that it does not have a lot of explosive athletes at the receiver position. State had Jaylen Samuels as their key target on offense but he's a tight end and he's not a consitent big play threat. Virginia's most targeted receiver is Keeon Johnson and he's not even averaging 10 yards per catch. Also, Kurt Benkert is only averaging 5.8 yards per attempt which is one of the worst averages in the country. Another similarity is at the running back position where Taquan Mizzell is the best player on the offense and they try to get him the ball in different ways. However, Mizzell only gets about 18 touches a game and that's not nearly enough for your best player who is a legit threat to make impact plays multiple times in a game.

Louisville put the clamps on the Wolfpack by being aggressive without being overly reliant on blitzes. They did a great job of attacking short passes and outside runs as opposed to blitzing and trying to get after the quarterback. I think the same strategy will work well this week as UVA likes to move the ball down the field with shorter passes that put their players in space. Louisville was burned a few times against Duke when they blitzed and they adjusted well against State. I expect the same this week.


Louisville's secondary has a good chance to show that they are better than some numbers suggest this week. Over the last three games, Louisville has given up nine touchdown passes. Against a guy like Deshaun Watson and his great receivers you can understand struggling. Against Duke and NC State, who don't have better athletes and don't have an elite quarterback, it gets a little frustrating. The Cards are in a unique spot where we as fans and want-to-be pundits are basically nitpicking their play. Louisville's secondary is playing well. They're forcing turnovers and they're holding teams to 51% completions. The issue is that they've given up 17 touchdown passes which puts them in a tie for 115th in the country. This team should be shoring up issues and mistakes over the next few games with three straight games against poor offenses. A good way to do that is to shut down Virginia's outside receivers. The corners for Louisville have been more of an issue than the safeties this season. It's a flip from last year and it's somewhat of a byproduct of having a pressure defense, but this shouldn't be happening against "ok" offenses.