Game Preview: Do we assume Lamar Jackson runs wild on UVA D?

virginia footballThe Lamar Jackson Heisman campaign can come to a halt on Saturday when Louisville faces UVA.

Bwa-hahahahaha. But seriously.

Two ways it can happen. The most likely: Jackson only plays a half, maybe a series or two in the third quarter, and doesn’t get big numbers to add to his season totals (2,161 yards and 18 TDs passing, 908 yards and 16 TDs rushing) as a result.

The other possibility: for some reason having nothing to do with the opponent, Jackson struggles.

The Duke game a couple of weeks back is a case in point to that one. In a narrower-than-the-score-looked 24-14 win, Jackson put up middling numbers through the air (13-of-26, 181 yards), though he did gain 144 yards on the ground.

Virginia (2-5, 1-2 ACC) doesn’t seem at all capable of putting any kind of clamps on Jackson, but … the Cavs did intercept five passes at Duke in its ACC opener earlier this month.

That was a freshman quarterback (Daniel Jones), not a Heisman frontrunner.

I’m reaching, I know.


Getting to know: Louisville

The Cardinals (6-1, 4-1 ACC) are a 30-plus-point favorite on the road, for good reason. The offense averages 52.6 points and 616.9 yards per game, 331.6 yards through the air, and 285.3 yards on the ground (on an average of 6.7 yards per rush).

Jackson is the linchpin as the ultimate dual-threat QB. He keys the run game averaging 7.0 yards per rush. Brandon Radcliff has run for 551 yards on 7.8 yards per carry. Changeup back Jeremy Smith averages 7.7 yards per tote (270 yards total on the season).

A quartet of receivers look to have a field day against the overmatched UVA secondary – James Quick (32 catches, 16.3 yards per catch), Jamari Staples (22 catches, 19.4 yards per catch), Cole Hikutini (27 catches, 14.6 yards per catch) and Jaylen Smith (12 catches, 25.3 yards per catch).

The defense gives up 22.7 points and 301.3 yards per game, and is better than those stats would indicate. Think: there’s lot of garbage time in Louisville games.

The run defense is solid (116.1 yards per game, 3.2 yards per rush). The pass defense gives up 185.1 yards per game, and just 5.9 yards per pass attempt.

Watch out for James Hearns (4.5 sacks), Jaire Alexander (three interceptions) and Keith Kelsey (team-high 51 tackles).

Punter Mason King averages 40.5 yards per kick, with nine of his 24 punts downed inside the 20.

Blanton Creque is 8-of-9 on field goals with a long of 39, and has two touchbacks on 28 kickoffs.


Getting to know: UVA

The Cavs offense has backslid the past two weeks, dating back to the picksix that quarterback Kurt Benkert threw just before halftime in the 45-31 home loss to Pitt on Oct. 8.

For the reason, Virginia averages 26.3 points and 381.9 yards per game on offense. Benkert, benched late in the 35-14 home loss to UNC last week, is back in the #1 position Saturday. He has thrown for 1,859 yards (57.5 percent completion rate) with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Taquan Mizzell is coming off a 100-yard-plus game in the UNC loss, and has a team-best 461 yards rushing (5.6 yards per carry) on the season. Albert Reid has 366 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and a team-best six rushing touchdowns.

Three receivers get the bulk of the targets through the air – Keeon Johnson (34 catches, 9.5 yards per catch), Olamide Zaccheaus (31 catches, 14.2 yards per catch) and Mizzell (31 catches, 6.8 yards per catch).

The defense will be chasing Jackson and his teammates in the open field quite a bit. The D gives up 32.7 points and 456 yards per game. The run defense gets gashed for 171.0 yards (4.3 yards per rush), and the passing D gives up 285.0 yards per game (8.3 yards per pass attempt).

Linebacker Micah Kiser leads the defense with 77 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Safety Quin Blanding has performed admirably while being stifled by injuries (75 tackles, three pass breakups, one interception).

Defensive end Andrew Brown has been a revelation on the line (6.5 tackles for loss, three sacks).

Punter Nicholas Conte averages 45.3 yards per kick and has had 18 of his 44 punts downed inside the 20.

Virginia has made just two field goals all season long. Sam Hayward missed badly from 46 last week in the Carolina loss.

Kickoff specialist Dylan Sims has 10 touchbacks on 27 kickoffs.

Preview by Chris Graham