For this article, I'm going to use one of our all-time favorite phrases quite a bit -- "last year". I want to take a look back at the Virginia game last year to examine what they do well, along with what we need to do better to stop them.
1) The Virginia Ground Game -- This is how they beat us last year. We got demolished in the trenches, and they were left to run free on our defense. Junior RB Perry Jones and Freshman RB Kevin Parks ran for 149 and 86 yards respectively, and we had absolutely no answer for them all day long. This is something we're going to HAVE to slow down if we're going to have any chance of winning this game. However, with an improved front 7 on our end, I really don't think Virginia will see the success on the ground which they saw last year.
2) The Georgia Tech Passing Game -- Last year, Tevin Washington completed as many passes to our guys as he did to theirs. He went 2/8 for 24 yards and 2 INTs. Virginia's defense is good enough to where this won't cut it (hell, Presbyterian's defense may have been good enough to where this wouldn't cut it). Whether it be from Tevin or Vad Lee, we'll need to be more successful throwing the ball, or else the Virginia defense will stack the box. Their defensive front is too good for us to be able to accomplish anything, meaning in this case our offense will go nowhere.
3) The Virginia Quarterback Situation -- It's not that Virginia was particularly good at passing in last year's game (they weren't), and it's not that I expect them to be this year. For those unaware, Virginia's fans are dealing with something similar to what we're dealing with between the coach wanting to stick with the senior, Tevin Washington, while the fans want to see the freshman, Vad Lee. In Charlottesville, Mike London is seeming intent on sticking with junior Mike Rocco, while the sophomore transfer from Alabama, Phillip Sims, sits on the bench, waiting his turn. If it isn't clear already, I'll just point out that chances are that a 4-star, second-nationally ranked QB originally recruited by Alabama has more talent than a kid that was an unranked two-star QB (all according to Rivals). (Anyone else seeing eerie parallels here?) Even if they stick with Rocco the whole game, this situation is a fun one to watch as the season progresses....and I'd just advise that you be surprised by nothing in both cases.
4) Turnovers -- Yes, I know, shocker. Newsflash: for the first time in football history, turnovers will have an impact on the game! Really though, they played a huge role in last year's game. Tevin's 2 interceptions came on back-to-back drives, on back-to-back offensive plays, and really killed any offensive momentum we had. Then, Mike Rocco threw an interception to Rod Sweeting, which Sweeting promptly took to the house for a touchdown. It was huge for our team, but also huge when you consider that it was that play that made the game end up a one-possession, 3-point loss, as opposed to the 10-point loss it would have been had the play never happened. I don't see Virginia being a particularly impressive team, but as we saw last year one of the best ways to keep a team of their caliber in the game is to turn the ball over. We're going to have to take care of the ball to win this game.
5) The Atmosphere -- You likely haven't forgotten that our loss last year in Charlottesville was our first, putting a big damper on what had so far been a 6-0 season. It was Homecoming there, their fans were excited and loud the entire game, and overall we just looked bad. Everyone left with a bad taste in their mouth. This year, we enter with a bad taste still in our mouth, driven by the loss to division rival OK WE'VE TALKED ABOUT IT ENOUGH, and not made much better by trampling a team we all expected to trample (which basically equates to eating a ton of fast food when you're sad, because it makes you feel better and yet you don't feel better at all). Our fans are ready for us to walk in here and make a statement. Let's show that this team is more mature than last year's, more talented than last year's, and will accomplish more than last year's. This is a team that should beat the average teams like Virginia. Our fans are ready to show that we mean business, and that we won't be leaving Virginia Tech's rear view mirror any time soon.
Agreed, readers? Think there are other keys to this game that I missed? Any of these not as big of a deal as I'm making them out to be? Let's hear it.