The Virginia Cavaliers will be looking to bounce back in 2015 from a somewhat disappointing - yet encouraging - season last year. It won't be easy for Virginia. They'll once again have a very difficult schedule with a large amount of uncertainty on their roster. Mike London has gotten one more shot in Charlottesville, but if he doesn't take advantage of the opportunity this season, it will likely be his last. For an in-depth preview of Virginia, check out Bill Connelly's breakdown.
What to watch for:
There will be two main things to watch for with Virginia this season and in the matchup against Georgia Tech. The first is how well Matt Johns plays as the undeniable starting quarterback for the Cavaliers. Johns played in very limited action against the Jackets last season as Greyson Lambert received most of the playing time. Lambert is now a georgia bulldog. Johns played better than Lambert when he got the opportunity in 2014, and he'll now have every chance he could ask for. Johns shouldn't wow anyone at the position, but he seems to be less turnover-prone than Lambert, and he's fairly mobile.
The second thing to watch for is how much Virginia's defense regresses. They were very strong last year but were ultimately let down by the below average offense the Cavaliers were sending on the field. The strength of the defense was the front seven which has lost all four of its starting linebackers plus San Francisco 49er DL Eli Harold. We saw glimpses of how tough the front seven of the Virginia defense could be in the 2014 version of this game, and if it weren't for that, the Jackets may have hung 50 on the board because of the dominant performance from the Tech defense. If Virginia can't replace some of that talent from last season, it could be a long year for a team that needs to rely on its defense.
Who to watch for:
QB Matt Johns
As stated above, Johns shouldn't wow anyone with his talent. He's a lanky quarterback without any plus categories. Johns was still much better than the overhyped Lambert during his playing time last season, and people at Virginia are expecting a huge progression from Johns now that he's had most of the offseason to practice knowing he's the starting quarterback.
RB Taquan Mizzell
Mizzell was a 5-star recruit out of high school who hasn't quite lived up to that potential so far at Virginia. He ran for only 280 yards last season and received just two carries in the game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It's now his backfield at this point going into his junior season. Virginia needs Mizzell to play like his projections stated he could so he can carry an offense that badly needs to be lifted.
FS Quin Blanding
Blanding is an absolute stud. He was a Freshman All-American according to basically everyone in the country last year, and he's being looked at as one of the best defensive backs - if not the best - in the nation in 2015. He was credited with 13 stops against the Jackets last year, and you should expect to see even more of him this year as the catalyst for the Cavaliers defense trying to stop Tech's option offense.
What to expect:
There really shouldn't be much to see here. Georgia Tech is simply a better football team than Virginia. There can always be a letdown, and Virginia has plenty of talent to build a strong team, but Mike London and the UVA coaching staff has been unable to put anything together to show any signs of the Cavaliers even being able to make it to a bowl game. With the Virginia defense likely regressing from its strong form in 2014, the Georgia Tech offense should find more success than it did last season and should move the ball much more efficiently. While I don't expect as dominant of a performance defensively from the Jackets, Virginia has a long way to go offensively to show that it can score enough to keep up.
Best-case scenario for Virginia
The Cavaliers are able to replicate some of the defensive success they had last season at Tech, and they find that the Jackets' offense is even easier to stop without Synjyn Days running for 150 yards. Matt Johns and the Virginia offense don't turn the ball over, and they find themselves controlling the clock and having a chance to steal a victory in the 4th quarter.
Worst-case scenario for Virginia
Everything is bad. Everything is really bad. The Cavaliers can't stop the option with Eli Harold plus the linebacker unit gone from 2014. Justin Thomas has a field day in Charlottesville. Matt Johns and the offense finds no rhythm, and the Jackets once again completely dominate the UVA offense for a blowout victory.
Georgia Tech 38, Virginia 20