The Cavaliers will be looking to rebound against North Carolina at home this week while also try to stay near the top of the ACC Coastal Division with a win against the Heels. Virginia is a solid team, and they defend their home field well, having only lost one game at home all year, to UCLA in week one when the Bruins needed 3 defensive touchdowns to win 28-20. The strength of Virginia is their defense, which allow only 331 yards per game, the 25th best mark in the country. Virginia is relatively offensively challenged, averaging 403 yards per game, 71st in the country, however, the Heels have shown that they can make even mediocre offenses look spectacular this season.
The Virginia offense is led by sophomore quarterback Matt Johns who took over for Greyson Lambert after Lambert injured his ankle against BYU. Johns is in his first season as a starter and he has definite weaknesses throwing the football. Johns has only completed 55.5% of his passes while averaging only 6.8 yards per attempt. Johns does throw to a variety of receivers but he is not as able to exploit the UNC defense as Shane Carden or Everett Golson have done already this season. Johns is not an immobile quarterback, he has 19 rushes on the season for an average of 6.2 yards per carry. The Carolina linebackers and defensive ends must keep a contain on Johns to ensure that he does not break out of the pocket and scramble for first downs.
The Virginia running game is almost the definition of average. The Cavaliers average 4.3 yards per carry, boosted by Johns' ability to scramble, and 171.7 yards per game. Kevin Parks operates as the primary running back for Virginia, he averages 4.2 yards per carry and has 3 touchdowns on the season. Parks is also used as a receiver out of the backfield with 16 catches on the year. However, Parks has not been much of a scoring threat as a receiver with only one receiving touchdown on the season and an average of 6.5 yards per reception. The Heels have played below average run defense so far this season, allowing 4.8 yards per carry the 29th worst mark in the nation, so against the Cavaliers the Heels should look to bounce back after allowing 7.4 yards per rush to Georgia Tech.
The Virginia defense is the strength of the team. The Cavaliers have 3.0 yards per carry the 11th stingiest mark in the country. The Cavaliers also have the 33rd best pass defense in terms of yards per attempt allowing only 6.5 yards per carry. They also limit opposing quarterbacks to 55.4% completion on the season. Virginia has also intercepted nine passes and recovered eight fumbles this season. The Cavaliers have 23 sacks, tied for the 11th best mark in the country. This defense is for real and the Carolina offense, particularly the offensive line, will need to step up on the road for the Heels to win.
Take care of the football:
The Virginia offense is not potent enough to be intimidating and forcing them to go the length of the field multiple times should be a recipe for a Tar Heel win. If the Heels submit the same offensive performance they have in the past two weeks, then as long as Virginia never has a short field this game should be one the Heels can win. To prevent the Cavaliers from having a short field the Heels just need to take care of the football on offense.
Keep flags off the field:
There were no penalties on defense and special teams last week and that definitely played a role in winning against Georgia Tech. Repeating that performance will be key to winning in Charlottesville.
Help us Marquise Williams, you're our only hope.
He's produced 898 yards in the past two games, let him continue to control the game on offense, it's working.