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3 players, 2 matchups, and 1 prediction: Virginia at Louisville on Thursday Night

Previewing Thursday night’s action between the ‘Hoos and the Cards.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 04 Georgia Tech at Virginia Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the third time this season, the Virginia Cavaliers football team has a short week as they face off against Louisville on Thursday night. The ‘Hoos are coming off a bad outing against Georgia Tech. An early lead evaporated and then Georgia Tech quite literally ran away with it. Over 300 yards on the ground.

The Cardinals are 8-1 and ranked #11 in the nation. Yes, Virginia has already beaten a top ten team on the road this season. But UNC’s defense is bad.

Louisville’s defense isn’t bad. Virginia also may be without starting QB Tony Muskett. Still have high hopes for Colandrea, but the offense was humming along with Muskett at the helm.

Louisville is favored by 20. They beat Virginia Tech 34-3 last week.

Game Time: Thursday, November 9, 7:30PM Eastern
Streaming: ESPN

Three Players to Watch

QB Jack Plummer

Plummer spent four years at Purdue, including three as a part-time starter, and then another year at Cal where he started all 12 games last season. They’re offense wasn’t good, and Plummer’s numbers weren’t either. But he showed glimpses, including 400 yards and 3 TDs against top-ten USC.

They haven’t really had to lean on him too much. Twice this season they’ve been held under 100 yards rushing, and those are also Plummer’s two worst games. They’ve run the ball almost 60% of their plays. Still, Plummer can make throws.

This is a TD to Jabari Thrash, who is their version of Malik Washington. He has three times more receptions than anybody else on the team.

RB Jawhar Jordan

As a team, Georgia Tech rushed for 6.9 yards per carry last week. Jordan is averaging 7.1 yards per carry on the season. He is 14th in the nation in rushing.

The Hoos did a pretty good job bottling up Jordan last year. He rushed for just 29 yards on 11 carries. Keeping him under 3 yards per carry would be huge. That’s how the Hoos can win this game.

DE Ashton Gillotte

This Louisville defense wants to get after the QB. It is the biggest factor in their success. In their loss to Pitt, they struggled to generate pressure, finishing with 1 sack and 5 hurries (per PFF). In their season opening 39-34 win over Georgia Tech, 1 sack and 9 hurries.

But in last week’s blowout win over Virginia Tech, the Cardinals had 6 sacks and 21 hurries. The week before, in a shutout win over Duke, they had 3 sacks and 22 pressures. Gillotte leads the team with 8.5 sacks, which is seventh in the nation. Per PFF, he has 35 pressures. Gillotte is one of the top pass rushers in the nation.

Gillotte gets there first, though it is a bit of a jailbreak. This entire DL is very good. The two starting DTs have combined for 5 sacks. The DL as a unit has 20.5 of the team’s 23 sacks. Getting pressure without having the blitz is how you end up with the 15th ranked defense in the country.

Two Key Matchups

Virginia Front Seven vs Louisville Running Game

Last week, we saw what happens when you can’t stop the running game. This was not surprising, as Georgia Tech boasts one of the top running games in the country, ranking 21st nationally coming into the game. Louisville isn’t quite that good, but they rushed for 230 yards in each of their last two games.

In the Pitt loss, that was just 80 yards and just 2.4 yards per carry. That forced Louisville to the air. A season high 52 pass attempts from Plummer included 2 INTs and too many incomplete passes. Add in four sacks, and that’s a lot of negative plays.

In the first half last week, when the game was still in doubt, Georgia Tech had run 19 pass plays for 49 yards (2.6 ypp) and 23 run plays for 196 yards (8.5 ypp). Surely Louisville has seen this, and will feature the run early on. If the Hoos can get stops, it could get ugly quickly.

It does not help things that Virginia may be without starting LB Kam Robinson. The freshman is fourth on the team despite not seeing significant snaps until week 4.

Louisville Secondary vs Malik Washington

What Washington is doing is insane. He’s third in the nation in receiving. Eight receivers average 100 yards per game. Four play on top 5 offenses and seven play on top 40 offenses. And Washington plays in the 84th best offense. He has almost one-third of the team’s offense. And he’s doing it with two different QBs (actually three, technically).

As mentioned, the Louisville defense is very good at pressuring QBs. And doing it without having to blitz. That means they can play a lot of zone. It’s a fairly vanilla 4-3 defense.

Here, they show blitz. But it’s still just a four man rush. That’s a LB in man coverage against the slot receiver. And the safety simply can’t get to the edge on time. Washington operates mostly out of the slot. That’s a huge mismatch.

They’ll run a lot of soft zone, especially if they’re able to get pressure with just the DL. They’ll pay a lot of attention to Washington, but he’s so good at finding the open spots in the zone

This is what he does to a zone. Even with Muskett being pressured, Washington gets to the sideline and is open. Breaks and a tackle and he’s off.

One Prediction

This might be the best defense the Hoos have faced this year. And we don’t even know which QB will start due to Tony Muskett’s injury. The uncertainty can’t help.

Louisville has to have seen what Georgia Tech did last week, running the football. Virginia can’t stop the run, and Louisville knows it.

Prediction: Louisville 42, Virginia 17