Virginia Football: Previewing the Indiana Game
One game down and Virginia football is on top of the world.
The Cavaliers excelled in all three phases of the game last Saturday and gave coach Mike London his fourth straight season opening victory as a head coach.
Of course, that was against an FCS opponent in William & Mary.
If Virginia wants to continue its winning ways it must do so traveling to Bloomington to take on the Big Ten's Indiana Hoosiers.
Both of these teams have had forgettable seasons in recent memory, but Virginia was able to take the Hoosiers to task last time around in a 47-7 blowout in 2009.
How will the 2011 version of these teams do?
Let's break down the matchups!
Virginia Offense vs. Indiana Defense
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The Cavalier offense is predicated on the run.
Last week, Virginia amassed 240 yards on the ground. That was more yards than their opponent had running and passing the entire game.
The Cavaliers have two small speed demons in true freshman Kevin Parks and junior Perry Jones to try and push the rock up the field.
Given that Virginia's quarterback Michael Rocco made his first collegiate start last week and that the offensive coordinator seemed hesitant to test him, Indiana's strategy must be to stack the box and force Virginia to throw the ball.
Unfortunately for Hoosier fans, they had a rush defense near the bottom half of the conference last year, giving up an average of 172 yards per game. Worse yet, their opponents averaged a staggering 5.1 yards per carry.
Against Ball State, with a new coach and a new attitude, Indiana gave up 210 yards.
Indiana may be gaining physicality and they may have some talented freshmen to bolster the depth. Nevertheless, new coach Kevin Wilson will have a hard time slowing down the Virginia rushing attack which should eventually lead to a big disparity on the time of possession statistic.
Virginia Defense vs. Indiana Offense
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Indiana lost a quarterback who led the Big Ten in passing last season, but that did not stop Edward Wright-Baker from looking solid in his place.
Not only was he 20-32 throwing but he also rushed the ball 10 times. Clearly his versatility gives a dimension to the offense that has been lacking in years past.
The Hoosiers have developed an option offense under new coach Kevin Wilson, they implement two-back systems and want to spread Virginia thin.
It is not a bad idea since the last time Virginia played an option offense they gave up 477 yards on the ground to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
Clearly the pressure is on the Cavalier front seven to wrap up and make tackles. They must also avoid costly penalties to give their opponent a short field.
This was a problem last year, particularly on the road. Virginia gave up an average of 32 points per game last season outside of Charlottesville.
Edge: Indiana Offense
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Both special teams units looked good last weekend and on paper they appear evenly matched.
Virginia's Robert Randolph went a career-high four for four in his field goal attempts, including a 48-yarder to end the first half.
Not to be outdone, Indiana's Mitch Ewald was two-for-two including a 49-yarder against Ball State.
While both had good starts, Ewald is the man anyone would choose to hit the clutch field goal out of the two. As a sophomore he already is tenth in career field goals made in Indiana history with 16.
He is a Lou Groza finalist and really one of the bright spots on Indiana's team.
While Randolph is not as consistent, the momentum from the season opener may lead to breakout year.
On special teams, both teams have true freshmen ready to make a difference on returns.
Virginia has Darius Jennings and Dominique Terrell, two players who were just a tackle away from making big plays. Their speed, vision and tenacity make them home run threats and could definitely make a big play in this game.
Shane Wynn for the Hoosiers debuted with four returns for 88 yards and showed impressive moves of his own. The wide receiver is their big threat and someone Virginia will have to cover.
While the two teams are pretty even, Ewald is the difference maker. He may have to be called upon in this one.
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Kevin Wilson and Mike London are both relatively new to the head coaching gig.
Wilson spent nine seasons at Oklahoma as an offensive assistant and coordinator. During that time he helped groom some of the top players around like Sam Bradford, Adrian Peterson and really helped keep the Sooners on top of the college football landscape.
Now he comes to Indiana as a first year head coach, trying to change a culture and a system.
Mike London, on the other hand, is in his fourth year coaching his second at Virginia. Prior to leading the Cavaliers, London won an FCS title with the Richmond Spiders and was an assistant with the Cavaliers before that.
London knows Virginia and can inspire his players better than most coaches across the country. He is fiery and that has shown with his recruiting.
Both of these coaches seem like great hires for their school and both can turn things around. The difference is that London is in year two while Wilson is still in year one.
Often that means Wilson has to deal with the hand that he was dealt. He cannot really implement everything he wants until he gets his players in there.
That transition leads to growing pains and Virginia has hopefully moved past some of those bumps along the road. If London can avoid keeping the game plan too conservative, Virginia should have an edge.
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Both Virginia and Indiana have not made a bowl game since 2007, but that was the Hoosiers first appearance since 1994.
These programs have been relegated to cellar dweller status and neither can afford a loss if they want to get back to winning ways.
The Cavaliers have been awful on the road historically, but they have a clear plan for success in this contest.
Virginia's biggest strength is Indiana's biggest weakness. The Cavaliers have three quality running backs and the Hoosiers have a defense that gave up 210 yards on the ground.
Clearly the plan will be to pound the rock until Indiana submits. Virginia must control the time of possession to quiet the crowd and really keep momentum on their side.
Indiana will try to do the same thing with their schemes, but it should not be enough.
The Cavaliers are simply more talented than Indiana. Maybe not by leaps and bounds but the Cavaliers have enough talent to win the game. They have a system that is two years in place and a blowout victory to their credit two years ago.
These are the kind of games you have to win to turn a program around. Both schools look at this as an opportunity to move their team in the right direction. With the youth on both sides, these freshmen are cocky enough to believe they can change the culture.
If Virginia wants to be taken seriously, they have to win this game. They cannot be afraid to throw the ball with Rocco and they must avoid turnovers.
They proved last week they could do these things, if they can do it again they will keep the Cavalier faithful believing.
Prediction: Virginia 31 Indiana 14