Big Game Preview: UVA football set for Week 3 matchup with Ohio U.
The early line on this Saturday’s UVA-Ohio U. matchup had the ‘Hoos as a six-point favorite, but with the game moving to a neutral site in Nashville to work around expected impacts from Hurricane Florence, it’s now down to Virginia by three.
The Bobcats come in off a rare early bye week after almost losing to a Mike London-coached team in its opener two weeks ago, the joke there being, if London was still the coach at UVA, maybe it’s not as close as it ends up being.
London is now the coach at Howard, of course, and a year after pulling the big upset at UNLV, his Bison team led for a good part of the season opener before the Bobcats pulled away late in a 38-32 win.
Inside Ohio U.
For an Ohio U. team that was the runaway pick to win the MAC East and had whispers about running up a double-digit-win season coming into 2018, it was not the way you’d have expected things to go.
Particularly with the starting QB, Nathan Rourke, only going three series, not because of injury, but ineffectiveness.
Backup Quinton Maxwell took over as part of a planned rotation and never left, throwing for 233 yards and two touchdowns, after Rourke had completed just two of his eight pass attempts.
Rourke remains the starter, but Maxwell is expected to get time in another pre-set rotation, which could complicate things for UVA in terms of game-planning, though both QBs are considered dual-threat guys with relatively similar skill sets.
The bigger issue, on paper, is the Ohio U. offensive line, which returns four starters from 2017, and fueled a ground game that averaged 244.1 yards per game and 5.7 yards per attempt last year.
It wasn’t nearly that good in the Week 1 win over Howard, gaining just 146 yards and 3.7 yards per attempt.
The UVA run defense, of course, had its own issues in its 20-16 Week 2 loss at Indiana, allowing 237 yards, and 5.4 yards per attempt.
Ohio U. can have issues running the ball against defenses that stack the box, which Virginia may need to do anyway, given its lack of depth up front.
The Bobcats defense will have its own issues. Howard burned them for 645 (!) yards in the opener, with QB Caylin Newton throwing for 484 yards and running for 93 yards on 21 attempts.
The UVA offense is still feeling its way around the transition to new starting QB Bryce Perkins, a dual-threat guy who right now is much more dangerous running the ball (115.5 yards per game, 3rd in the ACC) than he is as a passer (52.1 percent completion rate, 10th in the ACC; 126.3 passer rating, 9th in the ACC).
What Newton was able to do might suggest that Perkins can have success against the Ohio U. defense, which did at least have the early bye week to shore up whatever it was doing wrong.
Preview by Chris Graham