Oregon's road trip to Virginia came about unusually late in the offseason. The Ducks were supposed to be in Reno this week to take on Nevada but the Wolfpack, finding themselves with a crowded nonconference schedule of Oregon, Florida State, and UCLA, dropped the Ducks in favor of a game with UC-Davis. Virginia was in a similar bind, having lost a game with Penn State. Two schools with a mutual need came together, and a home-and-home series was quickly contracted. Virginia will return the trip to Eugene in 2016.
In Virginia, you get what is seen as an average BCS team. The Cavaliers enter year three of the Mke London era, having finished a surprising 8-5 his first year, while regressing to 4-8 the next. As BIll Connelly noted, luck played an important factor in both seasons, with Virginia having fairly opposite records in one possessions games in both seasons. But, quite frankly, Virginia's offense was bad last season, ranking 90th in the country with 22.8 points per game. While Virginia won their opener with BYU last weekend, they did so with 19 points and 223 total yards.
David Watford will make his second start at quarterback, having gone 18/32 for 114 yards against the Cougars. 3.6 yards per pass is never going to cut it, especially with a running game that averaged 2.6 yards per carry against the BYU defense. While we can expect some regression to the mean from that one game, some underlying truths remain: Watford is a young quarterback without a great arm. The running game, led by junior Kevin Parks, is decidedly average. And, while the receiving corps has a lot of recruiting stars, they haven't yet had anything to show for it. Virginia runs a very traditional pro-style offense, but week one was a mess.
The defense is in better shape, and it was that unit that keyed the BYU win--a long interception return and a blocked punt leading Virginia to very short drives on both of their touchdowns. Virginia has a very good secondary that broke up 25 passes last year. Their defensive line was stout against the run, but generated almost no pass rush. But the big problem with this group is simply depth. Virginia lost six defensive linemen from last season--and return only five with any kind of experience whatsoever. They also lost their top two linebackers. Do they have the depth to run against Oregon's offense for four quarters without wearing down?
So Oregon has a long road trip which, in college football, is never a point in favor. But they task a bad offense with the challenge of outscoring them, and a middling defense lacking line depth the challenge of stopping them. The Ducks are a 23.5-point favorite, a trickly line for a team traveling all the way across the country. But the Ducks are by far the better team here, and it would take a lot of bad things happening for a result not to go in their favor.
Time: 12:30 PT