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What To Watch For: Virginia Cavaliers

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Wake Forest v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE HAS SEEMINGLY FIXED THEIR PROBLEMS RUNNING THE BALL

Louisville running backs ran for 145 yards last week which was the first time that has happened this year against an FBS team. To me, it looks like they may have solved their issues running the football when it comes to blocking. Louisville opened some massive holes for the Running Backs last week and did a good job of avoiding negative plays due to missed blocks.

Virginia has not been great at stopping the run this season and I think it’s due to a lack of a strong defensive front. UVA doesn’t have three strong Defensive Linemen who can eat up blocks and cause disruption. I think that has made it hard for their Linebackers to get those tackles for loss and run stops and teams have had the ability to get their running game going for 4-6 yard gains. UofL can live with that number if they can continue the trend of running the ball well this weekend.

VIRGINIA WILL LOOK TO BE BALANCED ON OFFENSE

Virginia went full air raid early this year with Brennan Armstrong ranking third in the country in attempts per game. It’s been a change for this offense but last week they did a much better job of balancing their offense more to keep Miami off balance. It worked well and the UVA Running Backs had their best game of the season.

Louisville hasn't been able to get any consistency on the defensive side of the ball and they have really struggled when teams have worked to push a balanced attack against them. When UCF went too pass-heavy, they switched things up and gashed UofL for big gains with the run. We saw the same thing against FSU. Louisville getting a few stops early and the offense getting a couple of scores could force Virginia to start slinging the ball around which is a positive for the Cards.

LOUISVILLE SHOULD LOOK TO DEFEND UVA LIKE THEY ARE UCF

Bryan Brown had an amazing game plan against UCF where he utilized his Dime package to throw an unexpected look at the Golden Knights. He was also able to get more speed on the field and close down passing lanes when he dropped 7 or 8 guys into coverage. That forced UCF to check down to guys in the flats and Brown’s speedy defense was able to close down on those players and make that tackle. He held Dillon Garbiel under 200 yards passing for the first time in years.

I think Brown should utilize the dime in this game as well. Virginia has a very big offensive line but they just have not shown the commitment to run the ball this year. When they have, they haven’t utilized a running game that focuses on runs inside the tackles. They’ve run outside a good amount which would play to UofL’s strengths. I think they can take away the big plays this UVA team has been somewhat reliant on and still have the ability to stop the run. Hopefully, we see it.

DONTAYVION WICKS IS A PROBLEM

Louisville has the fun task of stopping the best Wide Receiver in the ACC not named Josh Downs. Dontayvion Wicks is ranked second or third in just about every category when it comes to catching the football and he has been so consistent for this offense. Wicks has scored at least once in every game against FBS competition and he has at least 69 yards receiving in every game this season. He is very much legit and UVA has stumbled onto their best Receiver in a few years. He has great size at 6-1/205 and he can pull down just about any throw you put in his catch radius.

Wicks isn’t a burner but he does a really good job to get open at all three levels and he knows how to separate. If he gets the space after the catch he will absolutely run away from the defense but Lousiville has to focus on keeping things in front of them and tackling. Wicks is the specific type of Receiver that has hurt them this year. Hopefully, we see an adjustment from Bryan Brown this week to account for him.

LOUISVILLE’S ABILITY TO SPREAD THE BALL AROUND COULD BE A BIG FACTOR

For two seasons I watched Lousiville essentially use two Receivers in their offense with a few other guys mixed in from time to time. For the first season, it worked well as no one knew how to defend Louisville and Scott Satterfield took full advantage. In year two something changed. Teams started to bracket Tutu Atwell on routes down the field just to defend the big play. Teams also keyed on I'm on third downs because they knew he was likely getting the ball.

This isn’t an issue anymore as the Cards are spreading the ball around to their entire group of options. That includes Marshon Ford at Tight End and whichever Running Back is in the game. Virginia has done a very good job over the last two years to take away Dez Fitzpatrick and Tutu Atwell. UofL got Tutu loose on a pop pass around the edge but outside of that play, they struggled mightily to throw the football. They’ve made it easy on UVA and that should change with so many options for Malik Cunningham.