Indiana Hoosiers v. Virginia Cavaliers: preview.

Virginia Cavaliers
2011 record: 1-0
2010 record: 4-8 (1-7)
2010 Sagarin:  87 (IU was #98)
Conference: Atlantic Coast Conference
Coach: Mike London (second season, 5-8)
Series: Virginia leads 1-0
TV: 7 p.m., Big Ten Network

Blog: Streaking the Lawn

After an opening-game loss to Ball State, the Hoosiers return to Bloomington and host Virginia in IU's home opener, which also is the first home game for head coach Kevin Wilson.  IU and UVa last (and first) met in 2009.  The Cavaliers were in the midst of a horrid season that ultimately cost Al Groh his job, but Virginia pulled it all together on that day, winning 47-7 in a game that wasn't even as close as the score suggests (it is worth noting that IU's roster was hit hard by the flu that week, but still).  Here's some of what I had to say at the time:

 

I doubt that even the most optimistic Virginia fan thought that yesterday's game was within the realm of possibility.  Again, by the numbers, Virginia's offense was one of the very worst in Division I-A before yesterday.  Here's what that offense did against IU:

Total offense: 536 yards

Yards per play: 7.1

Yards per rush: 5.1

...

As for IU's offense, the Hoosiers generated only 272 yards of offense and only 82 yards on the ground.  Perhaps the loss of Darius Willis was that big a deal.  I suppose we will find out if he is able to play against Illinois next week.  Chappell was sacked twice by a previously inept Virginia pass rush and IU turned the ball over twice while forcing none.  of IU's 272 yards, 148 were generated on IU's last four drives, meaning that when UVa took a 37-0 lead in the third quarter, IU had generated only 124 offensive yards.

But enough about memory lane.  As I mentioned above, Virginia fired Al Groh after the 2009 season.  Mike London is now in his second season as Virginia's coach, after two  seasons at  Richmond, where he won the FCS NCAA title in 2008.  Despite the underwhelming 4-8 record, Virginia made significant strides offensively last season.   Last year, UVa improved to #37 in FBS in total offense and averaged over 400 yards per game.  On the other hand, the Cavaliers' defense seemed to decline as the season transpired.  On October 30, UVa improved to 4-4 with an upset of Miami, but the season ended on a four game losing streak which began with a 55-48 loss to Duke (3-9). 

The 2011 season began last week with a 40-3 win over William & Mary, a quality FCS program that defeated the Cavaliers in 2009.  Before the season, both the quarterback and running back positions were unsettled, but QB Michael Rocco and RB Kevin Parks seemed to establish themselves last week.  Parks ran for 114 yards on only 16 carries and scored three touchdowns.  Rocco completed 72 percent of his passes and threw for 174 yards.  True freshman Clifton Richardson also played well at RB, gaining 57 yards and a TD on 7 carries, while Perry Jones gained 56 yards on 12 carries.  UVA gained 496 yards overall compared to 169 for W&M. (with 63 of William & Mary's yardage coming on the final garbage time drive).  The focus for UVa appears to be on the run, and all of Virginia's offensive TDs came on the ground, but Tim Smith and Darius Jennings put in strong performances last week.  UVa's leading returning receiver, Kris Burd, caught only 4 passes for 29 yards.  Virginia's starting tight end, Colter Phillips, the older brother of IU's Paul Phillips, sprained his ankle against W&M and is a gametime decision

As noted above, UVa allowed W&M to do nothing offensively.  Until late in the fourth quarter, the longest drive allowed by UVa was 6 plays long for 27 yards.  Henry Coley led the way with 10 tackles and a sack.  Demetrius Nicholson had an interception.  It remains to be seen whether UVa's defense is this much better or if it was a function of the opponent.

Having dropped the opener, this is a big game for IU.  It is IU's last chance for win over a quality opponent before Big Ten play begins.  It is a chance to regain the trust of the fans after a demoralizing loss.  As unlikely as a bowl bid might be, it's a game that IU now has to win to have any chance at reaching the postseason.  Most importantly, it is an opportunity for improvement.  IU's defensive front struggled against Ball State.  Can they find a way to stop Virginia's possibly powerful rushing attack?  Will the return of Darius Johnson allow IU to put some pressure on the quarterback?  There are plenty of unknowns, but I anticipate an improved performance.  Improved enough to win?  I hope I'm wrong...Virginia 31, Indiana 28.  

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