Nothing like a road trip to Virginia in October. The leaves are changing, the museums are buzzing, and the football team is preparing to terrorize Louisville for what feel like the last decade. A trip to Charlottesville is never easy for Louisville and you “can throw the records out when these two meet” because it’s always messy when the Cards and Cavs get together. Winning 3 of the last 4 at home UVA is ready for the challenge against what should be a very hungry (please) Louisville squad.
This week I welcome Zach Carey from ‘Streaking The Lawn’ to answer some questions about a Virginia team who has also been a bit slow out of the gate and playing tighter than the windsor knot around the fans in the front row Saturday. Lets get super formal and raise a pinky to our good friends from STL...
Welp, here we are. Two old conference pals just sitting here at 2-3 and both looking to pick up their first ACC win nearly halfway through the season. Just like we all predicted back in August. On a side note….WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! Louisville making Boston College look like Clemson and Virginia is coming off a 20 point loss to (checks notes) Duke?!? What is happening here Zach?
Well, on the one hand it seems outside of a couple teams at the top, the ACC is a complete crapshoot. The Coastal especially. That plus the fact that both our teams are underperforming expectations and this is where we’re at, I guess. Some more optimistic UVA fans such as myself envisioned an eight or (whispers) nine win season. Throw that out the window, now I’d be happy with beating GT on the road in a couple weeks.
I’ve got some good news and some bad news for Virginia. The bad news you already know, in that baring some type of miracle turnaround your shot at an ACC title is pretty much over less than halfway into the year, but the good news is that a struggling Brennan Armstrong is about to look like a Heisman trophy candidate this Saturday against a defense that just refuses to make plays consistently. Why exactly has Armstrong struggled this year?
There’s so much that goes into this. We did a full-fledged breakdown about a week ago that went into more detail about Armstrong’s struggles, but the basic rundown is that this is a result of the completely new (and bad) offensive line which gives him limited time in the pocket, the wide receivers who have regressed horribly last season with UVA’s star receiver Dontayvion Wicks now shockingly a serial dropper, a new, more pro system which Armstrong isn’t comfortable in, and the simple fact that he has not played to the level of last season.
Add all those factors together and it’s pretty easy to tell that this Wahoo offense isn’t doing much of anything sustainable on a week to week basis. And, if Armstrong and his pass-catchers don’t at least revert to the mean, this will continue to be a disappointing season in Tony Elliott’s first year.
Louisville was absolutely atrocious back in 2020 with ball security (-12 TO Margin) but appeared to work on it last season and correct some mistakes. In 2022, if not for some inexplicable turnovers from Boston College, Louisville would once again be in the red in that area and it has already cost them some ball games. Virginia also appears to a bit loose with the ball this year which gives me some hope heading into the week. We all know lose balls sink ships….at least I think that’s what they say. What gives with the ‘free ball’ approach?
Yeah in general UVA’s just been really bad with all the little things this season. Special teams has been a sore spot while part of Armstrong’s struggles have come in the form of inexplicable fumbles. Throw in far too many dumb penalties and the ‘Hoos have been begging teams to beat them all season long. Louisville should get that chance on Saturday. Only difference I could see is that the game is in Charlottesville. But, still, UVA turned the ball over three times (twice in the red-zone, once at the Monarch 40) against ODU at home in game three. So, yeah, that’s that.
Louisville’s offense has shown some signs of life, but has not lived up to the hype thus far in 2022 with no real threats from the wide receiver group emerging and some inconsistencies from Malik through the air. What do you think UVA will try and do to contain Cunningham and Co. this week?
Fortunately for the Wahoos, their secondary has been the arguable strength of this team. So, considering what you mentioned about the Cardinals’ problems through the air, I suspect Louisville’s avenue to winning this game will come on the ground. But, fortunately for Louisville, that’s exactly where this UVA defense is susceptible. Just look at last Saturday against Duke when the Blue Devils rushed for 248 (!) yards against this Virginia front.
The key for UVA will be the linebackers. This defensive line rarely wins at the line of scrimmage so the hope for the Wahoos will be that Nick Jackson and Josh Ahern can commit to stopping the run and get downhill quickly. UVA plays a 4-2-5, but I’m curious if they’ll bring in a third linebacker at times considering Louisville’s likely gameplan.
There is something oddly infuriating about a noon game in Charlottesville. I’m not sure if there is something piped into the stadium or the professional attire from the fans lures us into a daze but the team always appears smaller, slower, weaker when they step onto the hallowed ground of David A Harrison III Field. Cavs have won 3 of 4 in their building and Vegas has no clue what to do with this pillow fight, currently sitting at -3.5 for the Cards. How do you see this one going, and who gets that ever elusive first ACC victory?
Honestly Louisville -3.5 is probably the right line. I’ll take Louisville by four. I’m fairly hopeless about this UVA team even despite a couple positive signs. Maybe, as you said, the game being in Charlottesville can trigger something for Tony Elliott’s team. But I need to see it to believe it. Louisville 24, Virginia 20.
Big thanks once again to Zach for his time. You can follow him here and follow STL here on the ol’ twittersphere. Cards, for the second week in a row absolutely need to get this win. Does the season end if they lose? Does the world stop spinning? No, but it makes it very difficult to see a path to 4 wins, much less 6 or 7...and that is a disaster scenario. Handle business, birds. Go Cards.