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Game Preview: How does UVA play as big favorite in ACC matchup with Syracuse?

uva syracuseVegas loves UVA football. This weekend, anyway. The books have the Cavs (1-4, 0-1 ACC) a seven-point favorite over Syracuse (3-2, 1-0 ACC) for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. tilt.

The Orange have a win in ACC play, against an improving Wake Forest team, 30-17, in Week 2, and played #6 LSU well in a 34-24 loss on Sept. 26.

It may be a case of what have you done for me lately: namely, the 45-24 loss at South Florida last weekend, though if that is what’s going on here in Vegas, what has Virginia done lately to earn being a big home favorite?

Virginia has one win in 2015, and it was a six-point victory over FCS William & Mary that wasn’t sealed until the UVA D got a stop inside its own 30 in the final minute in Week 3.

This week is likely the last time the ‘Hoos will be favored over an opponent in 2015.

Win this one, and pull four upsets in the second half, and Virginia gets to play in the lowest of lower-tier bowls in mid-December.



UVA offense vs. Syracuse D Virginia ran the ball better in the 26-19 loss to Pitt, gaining 139 yards on 31 carries, 4.5 yards per attempt. The bulk of those yards came on a 71-yard run by Albert Reid on UVA’s second play from scrimmage. Otherwise, it was business as usual – the Cavs average 3.3 yards per carry for the season. Quarterback Matt Johns seems to be regressing, throwing another momentum-turning interception in the loss to Pitt, getting sacked four times, completing just over 50 percent of his passes. It’s the stoppable force vs. the movable object in this one. The Syracuse D is ranked 13th in the ACC in total defense (393.6 yards per game) and 13th against the pass (255.8 yards per game, 141.1 opponent passer rating).

Syracuse offense vs. UVA D The Syracuse defense is 13th in the ACC. Virginia is the 14th, giving up 35.8 points per game, 428.8 yards per game, 272.8 passing yards per game, a 161.9 opponent passer rating. A funnel cake has a better chance preventing the spread of diabetes, basically. Syracuse has a nice, balanced offensive attack, running for 165.2 yards per game, 4.3 yards per carry, and getting productivity out of true freshman QB Eric Dungey, who was 21-for-34 passing for 232 yards, two touchdowns and one INT in the South Florida loss. Dungey has a 169.3 passer rating in four games, completing 60.0 percent of his passes for 660 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception, and he’s averaging 3.3 yards per carry on the ground with two more TDs.

Special Teams UVA kicker Ian Frye made two red-zone field goals last week, yay, after having missed three in a row coming in, but then had an extra point blocked in the fourth quarter, boo. Jury still out there. Punter Nicholas Conte averages 46.8 yards per kick. He might be the team MVP. The return and coverage teams continue to be a weak point on a bad team. Syracuse punter Riley Dixon has had 12 of his 23 punts downed inside the 20 and averages 45.2 yards per punt. Placekicker Cole Murphy is 7-of-9 on field goals with a long of 43.

How This One Plays Out A true freshman quarterback against this Virginia defense, which is 0-2 against true freshman quarterbacks in 2015. Dungey is a nice dual-threat QB who can give a defense still trying to find its way fits, and the Syracuse ground game will keep the Virginia front seven honest. Syracuse doesn’t have an easy go of it stopping its opponents, but the UVA offense has been doing a good enough job of that itself. Expect points, expect turnovers, expect to see why these two teams were picked at or near the bottom of the ACC in the preseason. And expect Syracuse to come out on top. Syracuse 31, Virginia 24.

– Preview by Chris Graham