Kickoff: Saturday, September 7th @ 12:30 p.m. PST
Scott Stadium (Charlottesville, Virginia)
Spread: Oregon -22 (Vegas Insider)
The Oregon Ducks didn’t exactly get much from their 66-3 blowout win over Nicholls. The first team offense and defense played much later into the game than was probably originally expected, especially from the offense that quarterback Marcus Mariota acknowledged had some growing pains.
While Virginia isn’t even in the top half of difficult games for the Ducks this season, they aren’t an opponent to take lightly – not that the “Win the Day” experts ever would.
The Cavaliers boast a top-notch defensive line led by seniors Jake Snyder and Brent Urban that could cause problems for Oregon’s run game and the Ducks are still evaluating exactly what kind of running attack they possess. Starter De’Anthony Thomas appeared capable of being a between-the-tackles runner, as was the strategy against Nicholls, but Byron Marshall and freshman Thomas Tyner have to figure to see an added workload.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oregon will be up against an offense that returns nine of 11 starters including eight of nine leading receivers from last season. Fortunately for the Ducks, pass coverage just happens to be their speciality. However, the Ducks will need a better performance in covering short passes that were effective for Nicholls.
I expect a similar game to the Oregon vs. Tennessee showdown in 2010. I expect the Ducks to struggle early before regrouping for a huge second half. Don’t be at all surprised if the Ducks are down at the end of the first quarter.
And with a 3:30 EST kickoff time, jet lag won’t have much if any impact on the game. The Ducks luck out not having an early game.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 45, Virginia Cavaliers 17
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota
Virginia might not be LSU, but they aren’t Nicholls either. Last week the Cavaliers upset Taysom Hill and BYU in a defensive struggle intensified by severe weather.
But even with less than ideal conditions, forcing the promising Hill to an extremely inefficient 33% completion percentage and only allowing 275 yards of total offense is a notable feat.
However, their offense was mundane. Virginia only accumulated 223 yards of total offense and punted the ball 13 times. The ability of first year starter and red shirt sophomore quarterback David Watford to improve and become a competent QB will be of utmost importance for the Cavs.
But the player Oregon will certainly have to keep an eye on is running back Kevin Parks. Though Parks only rushed for 65 yards on 20 carries, he led the Cavs in rushing last year and is a player some have predicted to be a future all ACC selection.
As far as the Ducks are concerned, it will be interesting to see if Thomas Tyner, who didn’t get on the field in the Nicholls game due to not being completely comfortable with the playbook, will get some touches.
Another player to watch out for is Josh Huff. After a pretty solid debut in which he tallied over 100 yards receiving, Huff will face stiff competition this week. Virginia cornerback Demetrius Nicholson has already started 25 games for the Cavaliers and tied the ACC lead in pass breakups last season (15). If Huff can break free from Nicholson consistently, it could be a good sign of things to come for Huff and the Ducks passing attack.
I look for Virginia to get off to a competitive start, still riding high off their big win last week, but the Ducks will pull away midway through the second quarter and never look back.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 45, Virginia Cavaliers 9
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota
There’s a lot to be said for the Ducks’ long road trip. It’s the farthest Oregon has travelled to play a football game that I can remember (Army in 1970 was the last so east) and the first time since 2010 (Tennessee) that the Ducks have crossed the Mississippi River to play a football game. 2013 Oregon is a lot like 2010 Oregon; both teams started the season with the cupcakiest of cupcakes, leaving the fans back home in the rubble of a 60-or-so-point win to try and dig out what that year’s squad would actually look like as they went east for their next game.
Virginia’s defensive weapons say they’re ready for the threat of Oregon’s up-tempo offense. Junior safety Anthony Harris told ESPN that stopping the Duck attack is all about execution and that’s true. If the matchup is a defensive battle, the game might just come down to a couple of key possessions. The Cavalier defense is strong and they run a four-man D-line that the Ducks might not be used to.
Also in support of Virginia is the long trip for Oregon, which likely starts on Wednesday.
However, the trip west-to-east is a lot easier to make, and Oregon’s travel schemes are the same as they’ve been since Mike Bellotti, probably the reason they’ve won their last fifteen road games. Also playing in the Ducks’ favor is Virginia’s lack of game-changing offensive talent; when Oregon struggled early against Tennessee, the threat of Tauren Poole made the game real interesting. But Virginia hung up less than 250 yards on the BYU Cougars, and their best offensive player is wideout Darius Jennings (7 catches for 62 yards vs. BYU, 48 for 568 yards in 2012) who will be held in check by Oregon’s top-notch secondary.
Assuming the Oregon linebackers are practicing their tackling (unlike their friends up the road in Corvallis), if this game strays from a defensive battle, the Ducks should roll.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 45, Virginia Cavaliers 13
Game MVP: Terrance Mitchell