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From the Upper Deck: Hoos visit the Pitt Panthers

The slate is cleared as ACC play opens. What do the Hoos have to do to start conference play off on the right foot?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The ACC Coastal Division is totally up for grabs.  Let's look at three keys as the Virginia takes on Pitt.

1) Make Nate Peterman beat you - Pitt is going to run the ball.  Make no mistake, Qadree Ollison has been spectacular filling in for 2014 ACC Player of the Year James Connor, averaging 111 yards per game. It will be up to the Virginia defense to keep him in check.  It won't be easy but if the Hoos can at least slow down Ollison, and force Peterman to pass, they should find success. But...

2) Contain Tyler Boyd - The moment Virginia focuses too much on stopping the run will be the moment Peterman will hook up with Tyler Boyd for a big play. Boyd will be playing on Sundays next year and it's no secret that Virginia can be beat over the top for big plays.  In each game this year Virginia's opponents have connected on at least one touchdown pass of over 30 yards.  Boyd is averaging 91 yards per game, but most importantly he accounts for 44% of the teams total receptions, so keeping tight coverage on him is the best way to stifle the Panther's passing game.

3) Air it out - Pitt wants to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. On defense Pitt will do anything it can to limit the Virginia run game, as they did against Virginia Tech, holding the Hokies to only 9 yards rushing on the day. If Virginia insists on running the ball (especially early in downs) they will be bottled up, they will be behind the chains, and they will then be in obvious passing situations allowing Pitt to tee off on Johns as they did to Virginia Tech quarterback Brenden Motley, sacking him a total of seven times last week.  With Canaan Severin and T.J. Thorpe, the Hoos have the weapons to keep the Pitt defense honest and take away the Panther's strength along the line and in the trenches.

Above all else, Virginia has to play better than it did in the two games before the bye. Hopefully the time off gave the team a chance to recharge, as well as focus on how they want to enter the ACC season. It's a clean slate as far as I am concerned, let's see how they respond.