Which corner are you in? Was last week's loss was a sign of good things to come, or have the close calls just become unacceptable? Whichever side you agree with the Hoos are back in action this week against the Syracuse Orange. The Orange come into Charlottesville with a 3-2 record, but those wins are less than inspiring coming against Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan. However, in their highest profile game of the season, Syracuse kept it close with the LSU Tigers before ulimately losing 34-24. After a rough outing against USF last week, Syracuse visits Charlottesville looking to right the ship and improve to 2-0 in the ACC. Let's see what I will be watching for From the Upper Deck.
1) Use the pass as an extension of the run game- I hate recycling old keys to the game, but this one has to keep showing up. Last week the Hoos ran the ball 31 times and threw it 34. While they totalled a season high in rushing yards, 71 of the 139 yards came on one play on the first drive. This offense has all the makings a team that can dink and dunk its way down the field and has no business running one yard into a line that can't create a hole. First, Matt Johns is mobile enough to execute some roll outs that gets the defensive line moving laterally. Second, Taquan Mizzell is arguably the best pass catching running back in the ACC. Third, Virginia has big wide receivers in Canaan Severin and Keeon Johnson with good hands who can create mismatches short over the middle. Fourth, the Hoos have a playmaking wide receiver in T.J. Thorpe who just needs the ball in his hands to make something happen. Those elements combined should provide Johns enough options right around the line of scrimmage to make the run game a compliment vice equal part of the offense.
2) Pressure the Freshman Quarterback - Third time's a charm, right? The Hoos didn't have success in their first opportunities against first year signal callers getting torched by Josh Rosen of UCLA (is he still the frontrunner for the Heisman, no? Well darn), and then Boise State's Brett Rypien lit the Hoos up for 358 yards through the air. Enter Eric Dungey, thrust into the role after an injury to Terrell Hunt. On the season Dungey, is averaging 165 yards per game. He isn't spectacular, but he holds on to the football only throwing one interception. The Orange don't have any skill position players that really scare you so the Hoos should be able to focus on making the day miserable for Dungey. Do that and the Hoos should come away with their first INT of the year.
3) Take care of the football - Syracuse's offense shouldn't have enough fire power to purely outscore Virginia. They, like the Hoos, are predicated on defense and taking advantage of the opponents mistakes. Through their first five games, the Orange have 10 takeaways. Should Virginia be careless with the ball and give Syracuse a short field and easy opportunities, that could be all the offense needed to spell doom for the Cavaliers.