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THE COLUMN: Virginia at Pittsburgh Complete Preview

Season 4 of Bronco Mendenhall and the Boys now streaming

TIME: 7:30 PM (EST)

DATE: August 31st, 2019

LOCATION: Heinz Field | Pittsburgh, PA


The Lowdown

Here we go. Week 1 of the 2019-2020 college football season. None of that Week 0 nonsense. Virginia is back in action against fellow ACC member Pittsburgh in what should be an intriguing opening matchup. Although, nothing is intriguing about this absolute crime of a “pizza” created by a Pittsburgh restaurant. I mean truly, it is an affront to humanity on both a molecular and cosmic scale.

Anyway, last season, the Hoos finished 8-5. Despite a rocky ending to the season, they walked away with a bowl win and mostly successful season. For many, it signaled a real cultural shift in the program under Bronco Mendenhall. Others have noticed too. ACC Media pegged the Hoos to win the Coastal Division and Bryce Perkins is often hyped as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference. This year, the Hoos will look to prove that they can back up their high expectations and ultimately show fans that the program is entering the next phase of positive growth: continued success.

The Pittsburgh Panthers, last season’s Coastal Division Champions (and annual sacrifice to the Clemson Tigers), are in a somewhat similar position to Virginia. Pitt fans will be looking to see they can get past the 7-5 hump and win back-to-back division championships. A running-focused team of the last few years, the Panthers may sport somewhat of a new look offense after the departure of two star running-backs and the introduction of a new offensive coordinator.

An opening game that is an ACC divisional matchup provides obvious implications for these two teams. Virginia will look to uphold its expectations while Pittsburgh will try to prove that the Hoos are only overhyped.

The Statistics

from Danny Neckel

  • It is UVA’s first time going on the road to open the season since 2015 and also only the second time since 2007. The other time was at UCLA in 2015.
  • Seven of the past ten openers were home versus Richmond or William & Mary. Others were at UCLA, home versus UCLA and home versus BYU.
  • Virginia opened at Pittsburgh in 2006 which was a 38-13 loss.
  • Last opener that was versus an ACC team was home versus Duke in 2003 in a 27-0 win.
  • Since Pittsburgh joined the ACC in 2013, UVA has only gone 1-5 versus the Panthers. Virginia only has a worse record in Coastal versus VT (0-6). The Hoos have beaten the other five Coastal teams at least twice in that span.
  • The Panthers are 5-1 (.833) versus UVA since 2013, but only 22-20 (.528) against the rest of the ACC.

Hoo’s Hoo?

Virginia Cavaliers

Bryce Perkins, QB

Bryce Perkins. Obviously. He was an offensive beast last year, putting up Virginia single-season records of 3,603 offensive yards and 34 touchdowns. Year two (and final year) for the transfer quarterback comes with a lot of expectations. Perkins has become a leader for the Cavaliers and no longer is an under-the-radar quarterback. He will be the focal point for the Hoos’ offensive and Pittsburgh will plan accordingly.

Virginia Cavaliers

Bryce Hall, CB

The defensive Bryce! Virginia fans rejoiced when fourth-year cornerback Bryce Hall announced he was not declaring for the NFL Draft earlier this year. The lockdown corner is a standout on the team, earning first-team AP All-Amercan honors, among other first-team pre-season accolades. Depending on his performance this season, Hall could potentially be a first round NFL pick. Hall will be expected to shutdown the opposing team’s No. 1 wide-receiver every week as he tries to work his way up the draft boards.

Virginia Cavaliers

Charles Snowden, LB

While Bryce Hall is the headliner for Virginia’s defense, Charles Snowden is another important piece. The third-year had a stellar previous season and will no doubt be a larger part of the defensive scheme this year. The 6’ 7” linebacker has potential to be formidable force for the Hoos and this would be the year for him to make the jump to be an elite ACC defensive player.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Kenny Pickett, QB

Sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett is a big question mark for Pittsburgh. Last year, the Panthers ranked a dismal 121st in passing yards per game. This year, they have a new offensive coordinator, Mark Whipple, who will look to change that at least a little bit. Pickett only threw for 1969 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, so that’ll figure to increase this year. We’ll get to see Pittsburgh’s new offensive plan in action this Saturday.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Maurice Ffrench, WR

To Pickett’s benefit, he is surrounded by experienced and older receivers. Ffrench (not a typo) is perhaps Pittsburgh’s most versatile wide-out. Last season, he scored ten touchdowns: six were receiving touchdowns, two were rushing touchdowns, and the other two touchdowns were off kick returns. The senior will look to improve his numbers across the board this year while also being a weapon across multiple parts of the game.

Pittsburgh Panthers

Rashad Weaver, DE

It was announced a couple weeks ago that the junior defensive end would miss the whole upcoming season due to a torn ACL. It is a major loss for the Pittsburgh defensive corps as Weaver was the top defensive end for the Panthers last season. Weaver lead Pittsburgh in sacks, tackles for loss, and fumble recoveries. Sophomore Deslin Alexandre will most likely slide into his spot.


Pittsburgh’s new unis?

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