ATQ: Virginia is in year four of the Mike London era, with up and down results. What does London need to do this season to keep the support of the Cavalier faithful?
STL: A bowl game this year and no one will be calling for London's head. 4-5 wins, and the calls will be out there but the Athletics Dept. won't listen to them. And well they shouldn't. This is a young football team. The talent level is just getting up to about ACC average (seriously, it was that bad). The recruiting class that's coming in next year will include two of the best prospects U.Va. has ever landed in Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown; both of those national-top-10 recruits are working on a lot of the rest of the top talent in the Commonwealth as well. The program is headed in the right direction, even if the results aren't necessarily there on the field this year.
ATQ: The offense left a lot of be desired against BYU, amassing only 223 total yards and a woeful 2.6 yards per rush. Can they score enough to compete with the notorious Oregon offense?
STL: Short answer: No. Longer answer: No, but who can? Full answer: No, this team is not going to blow the lights off any scoreboards. The YPC numbers are...disappointing to say the least, given the talent along the OL and in the RB crew. We've had the debate among our blog staff about why the offense looked so anemic last week: whether it was play-calling, first game in a new system, talent, weather, or simply facing a really good BYU defense. I think it was some combo of all those things. If we can stretch the field a bit more, it should open things up underneath for our RBs to get out in space.
ATQ: Bill Connelly mentioned in his Virginia preview that one of the concerns defensively was a lack of depth on the defensive line. How does that unit stack up, and is there enough depth there to withstand four quarters of no huddle action?
STL: A few offseason dismissals and unplanned departures certainly didn't help. And the second half last week saw the defense give up more, longer runs than they had earlier in the game. One factor working in the defense's favor is that they're all fairly athletic; these aren't B1G corn-fed hog-mollies. Eli Harold is a specimen; sliding Jake Snyder down to the inside and filling in behind him with Mike Moore puts basically four DEs on the field who can handle a faster tempo. That said, Oregon has been known to make D-linemen puke. So, there's that.
Who are the standouts on the Virginia roster? Any playmakers Oregon fans should know about?
STL: First-year (that's what we call our freshmen round these parts) RB Taquan Mizzell is one of the sparks that needs to ignite. He dazzled in the Army All-American game this past year and showed flashes last week-albeit flashes that were few and far between. TE Jake McGee was similarly quiet, but very capable of making big plays over the middle and causing matchup problems. On defense, safety Anthony Harris was national defensive player of the week last week, a clear beneficiary of defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's pressure defense. And our kicker hit a 53-yard field goal, which makes him count as a playmaker given our special teams woes the last few years.
ATQ: Since the inception of the BCS, the ACC has been the consensus fifth place league of the BCS leagues. The Orange Bowl record speaks for itself and, for Virginia's part, the Cavaliers haven't been a factor on the national scene. What does the ACC need to do to get back to being regularly competitive with the SEC, Pac-12, Big 10, and Big 12.
STL: Some of it is a simple matter of keeping our talent at home. Georgia, Florida, and the Tidewater region of Virginia (known by its area code, 757) are all rich with talented players. Florida State and Miami have been beneficiaries of that talent, and Virginia Tech has (past tense, thankfully) dominated Virginia recruiting during its rise to prominence. Some of it also has to do with the size of our member institutions. Even the big, flagship state schools aren't even remotely the same size as Texas, Michigan or UCLA; in addition, we have six private schools in the conference, three of them have undergrad enrollment of 9,000 or less, and Wake Forest is the third-smallest FBS school in the country. Big state schools have dominated the college football landscape since Yale stopped winning national championships. You look at ACC enrollment numbers, and it starts to make sense why we're a basketball (and lacrosse) conference.