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Enemy Scouting Report: Virginia Cavaliers

Aside from the media circus surrounding Bronco Mendenhall’s return to Provo as head coach of Virginia, there is a football game to be played. How do the Cougars match up against the Cavaliers?

NCAA Football: Virginia at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Game location: LaVell Edwards Stadium- Provo, UT

Game time/channel: 10:15 ET/ESPN2

Spread: (-2.5) BYU

Head coach: Bronco Mendenhall

Did you hear? Bronco Mendenhall makes his return to Provo. Since taking over at Virginia in 2016, he has brought the Cavaliers to new heights. In 2019, Virginia won their first ever ACC division title, playing Clemson in the ACC championship game and earning an Orange Bowl bid, their first BCS/New Year’s Six bowl in school history.

He owns a 36-34 record in Charlottesville.

2021 Season Thus Far

The Cavaliers started a pedestrian 2-2, including a loss to then-No. 21 North Carolina on the road. Since then, they have strung together four straight wins including a 48-0 dismantling of Duke.

They are coming off of a shootout with Georgia Tech. Virginia surged ahead 48-27 but had to hold on late, as the Yellow Jackets scored 13 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Virginia eventually won 48-40 to move to 6-2. Virginia tallied 636 total yards while also allowing 570 yards. They are a wildly flawed but fun team to watch.

2021 Team Rankings

Scoring offense: 16th

Total offense: 4th

Passing yards: 2nd

Rushing yards: 89th

Scoring defense: 73rd

Total defense: 105th

Pass yards allowed: 80th

Rush yards allowed: 112th

Penalty yards: 87th

Other notable stat- 126th in 3rd quarter points allowed

If BYU can keep it close heading into the locker room at halftime, Virginia has really struggled on defense specifically in the third quarter. BYU may have a chance to take control of the game with a strong third quarter.

Biggest Strength- Pass offense

Brennan Armstrong leads the passing offense at quarterback. He currently leads the entire country with 3,220 yards through the air. Receivers Dontayvion Wicks, Keytaon Thompson, and Billy Kemp all have over 500 receiving yards. Wicks also has eight receiving touchdowns to his name.

The Cavaliers have one of the most explosive passing offenses in the country. BYU’s secondary will need to be ready and now allow their receivers to get behind them. BYU is 85th in passing defense.

Biggest Weakness- Total defense

While Virginia’s offense has been explosive and tough to stop, their defense has allowed many explosive plays and struggles to stop anyone. Georgia Tech was able to collected 270 rushing yards. Louisville led a balanced attack to 503 total yards against Virginia. North Carolina totaled 293 rushing yards against Virginia’s shoddy run defense.

This seems like a game where the offensive line and running back Tyler Allgeier should be salivating.

Best Player- Brennan Armstrong, QB

As mentioned, Armstrong is the current NCAA leader for passing yards. He also owns a solid ratio of 23 passing touchdowns to six interceptions. That isn’t all he can do. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae incorporates Armstrong’s legs into the offense as well, as he currently has 177 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

BYU will need to be aware of Armstrong’s running ability, especially on third downs where they have solid coverage. He is just as capable of converting a big first down with his legs as he is his arm.

How BYU Can Win

With how poorly Virginia has played on defense, BYU should have little issue moving the ball and scoring, especially with one of the best running backs in college football in Tyler Allgeier. The difference in this game will be when BYU is on defense. Can they limit the explosive plays? Can they tackle better in space? Virginia will look to exploit any and every possible dent in the Cougars’ armor on defense. Anae’s squad has the capability and versatility to make any defense pay for any mistake. BYU will need to square up and hold their ground on defense and force at least one turnover. If BYU’s defense builds on the success they saw against another good offense in WAZZU last week, that should be enough to win this game.