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Opponent Breakdown: Virginia Cavaliers Offense

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NCAA Football: Virginia at Miami Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Air raid and Virginia don’t usually go together but Virginia comes into the Louisville game ranked 3rd in the country in passing attempts per game. Bronco Mendenhall is known as a defensive coach with a focus on controlling the ball but Virginia is now throwing the ball all over the place. The change in philosophy has UVA in the top 15 in yards per play this season but they’re just inside the top 40 in scoring and they’re also a missed field goal away from being 0-3 in the ACC.

The man leading the charge for this air raid offense is Brennan Armstrong. The southpaw was the talk of college football after three weeks when he led the country in yards and touchdowns. He’s cooled off a bit over the last two weeks with Wake Forest and Miami keeping him in check for the majority of their games. Armstrong is familiar with Louisville after hurdling his now teammate Anthony Johnson in 2018 in his first meaningful game action.

Where Armstrong really excels is extending plays with his legs and making plays when things break down. He can run the ball well but Virginia hasn’t really asked him to do much with his legs this year. He has been very accurate throwing the ball down the field and he has spread the ball around very well this season. What Louisville must do is pressure him. UVA has given up 12 of their 13 sacks on the year in their last three games. Armstrong held the ball too long on some of those sacks and on others, he didn’t get the ball out before the blitz got to him. Armstrong has played very well this year but he can be flustered into making poor plays.

The UVA running game has been solid when utilized but their backs aren’t utilized all too often. They use a stable of backs so one guy doens’t really stand out but Mike Hollins is the most talented of the bunch. Hollins is used as a receiving option out of the backfield as well. UVA used their running game much more than usual last week so Lousiville has to prepare for the same this week after Virginia had their best game in weeks with a balanced attack.

The Receivers for the Hoos have been really good this season. Dontayvion Wicks has been a revelation in his first year as a starter. He has a great blend of speed and size and he catches just about everything. Billy Kemp is the high volume slot target that UVA typically has each year. His role has expanded a bit as he is now used all over the field including down the field. Add in Ra’Shuan Terry and Jelani Woods at Tight End and you truly have to defend the entire field against Virginia.

Keytaon Thompson is listed as a “Football Player” on Virginia’s depth chart and as cheesy as it is, it’s pretty accurate for his role. Thompson transferred to Virginia a year after beating Louisivlle in a bowl game and Virginia has maximized his talent. He will line up at Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, and he will motion into any of those roles from another one. Thompson isn’t a blzer as a runner but he runs very hard and makes people miss.

The Virginia Offensive Line was heralded as one of the best in the ACC coming into this season but they haven’t been all too impressive over the last few weeks. The have allowed a lot of sacks and they haven’t been able to get much push on short yardage run plays. The Hoos have also been very poor in the red zone in part because they can’t consistently run the football. Louisville could have an opportunity to put pressure on Armstrong this week and maybe force a turnover or two.