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Georgia Tech Football 2019 - Opponent Q&A: Virginia

Our Q&A with Streaking the Lawn

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Q&A comes to you this week from Paul Wiley of UVA’s SBNation blog, Streaking the Lawn. He too is puzzled how UVA lost to the same Miami team that the Yellow Jackets beat, and don’t worry, he’s not filled with anxiety over breaking the losing streak to VPISU to end the season. So what’s the ceiling for the Wahoos this season? That and more below.

To start the season, UVA seemed to be living up to its popular preseason pick to win the Coastal. What went wrong for the Wahoos against Miami and Louisville that went right in the other 3 conference wins?

The second half in South Bend. After a dazzling first-half performance against Notre Dame, Bryce Perkins got smacked around a ton and I think it rattled his mojo, as his decision-making and execution didn’t look as sharp in the intervening weeks. Yes, Virginia throttled Duke in the midst of that stretch, but it happened on the strength of the defense causing five turnovers; the offense only managed a 50 percent completion rate and under four yards per carry. The Carolina game showed what this offense can look like when things go right: Perkins making plays with his legs and his arm, a solid wide receiver corps advancing the chains, and a power running game that builds off the threat of Perkins running. Put the UNC game offense together with the Duke game defense, and Virginia can beat almost anybody in the conference. (Except Clemson.)

With all 3 remaining games on the schedule against bad to terrible teams, what’s the ceiling for UVA this year? ... Y’all are finally going to break the streak against VT this year, right?

[deep breaths, meditation, incantations to dark spiritual forces] God I hope so. A second consecutive eight-win season would be the best two-year stretch for Virginia since the early 2000s. But it will still feel incredibly hollow without a win over That Tech, especially after how the game in Blacksburg ended last year. For evidence of how psychologically damaged we fans are about that game: there is a near-universal sentiment among UVA fans that the Hoos need to have the Coastal wrapped up going into the VaTech game because the universe will feast on an opportunity to double our pain by having a loss hand the Hokies the division. Thankfully, that path looks fairly realistic. I won’t predict a win over VaTech until one happens, but I do think Virginia has a good chance of playing in Charlotte on December 7.

Outside of VT, who would you say is Virginia’s next biggest rival in football? Is there one?

UNC is the most rival-ish opponent out there, but that game doesn’t come close to the animosity of the annual clash with VaTech. Maryland was for a while; I won’t say absence has made the heart grow fonder because it is just nice to be rid of them, but their flight to the Big Ten has weakened the football side of that rivalry. I’m just happy that Virginia’s biggest football rival is no longer Virginia, after years of watching the Hoos beat themselves.

Georgia Tech’s O-line has struggled mightily all season, so who on defense will be spending the most time in our backfield?

Pick a card, any card! The strength of UVA’s blitz schemes is that they come from all angles and catch blockers by surprise. Get to know the names Charles Snowden and Jordan Mack; they’re the two I would consider the most dangerous. Freshman Noah Taylor is actually second behind Mack in the sack count this year, and Zane Zandier (aka ZZ Stop) leads the team in TFL. The secondary has been depleted by the injury bug, which may limit the blitzing by defensive backs, but safety Joey Blount is actually ahead of Snowden’s sack total. After Jowon Briggs got his first career sack at UNC last week, every member of UVA’s defensive line rotation has at least one sack this year too. It’s kind of pick-your-poison, but the poisons keep changing.

I feel like Bryce Perkins has been UVA’s QB for like 10 years now - have you seen anything different from him in regards to growth now in his final season?

Welcome to the Virginia Fanbase Debate of the Year! (We settled the “Can Tony Bennett’s system work in March?” debate earlier this year, so this is the new one.) There’s no question that Perkins is the spoon that stirs the drink for UVA’s offense. But his willingness and ability to extend a play can sometimes put Virginia in bad situations, and there are plenty of examples of his pocket presence being a bit subpar. For a guy whose debut campaign in Charlottesville put him in statistical company with only the Heisman Trophy winner, Perkins’ 2019 has fallen a little short of the hypiest preseason hype. One of my friends put it about as accurately as I’ve seen it expressed: Perkins is the reason Virginia’s offense is as good as it is, but also the reason it won’t get much better.

And finally, how do you see this game going? How much does Virginia win by?

All of the numbers have Virginia pegged as about a fifteen- to seventeen-point favorite, and the Hoos are 9-1 in their last ten home games. As you pointed out, Georgia Tech has struggled to stop teams from playing in the backfield; Virginia is 4th in sack rate and 18th in runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage. I think Geoff Collins will get GT back into the Coastal hunt before too long, but I don’t see Saturday’s game being a first step in that direction. I’ll line up about where the statheads do: 31-14, Cavaliers.

Thanks again to Paul and STL for chatting with us this week. Be sure to swing by over there and check out our end of the Q&A here and say hello.

Kick is at 12:30.

Go Jackets!