Week 2 Weekend Matchup: Virginia Cavaliers vs. 24 Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium
When: September 10, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. PT
Vegas Over/Under: Oregon -25
The Cavaliers of Virginia, under first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall, come to Autzen Stadium this Saturday to take on the 24 ranked Ducks of Oregon. Oregon and Virginia have met once before; when the Ducks cruised to a 59-10 win with Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota at the helm.
After Mendenhall’s departure from BYU last season, his focus now is aimed at turning around the Cavaliers luck in the ACC. Unfortunately that didn’t go as planned, after losing 37-20 last Saturday against Richmond. Virginia, who haven’t had a winning season since 2011 (finishing 4-8 last season), come into Oregon on Saturday in hope of upsetting the Ducks, who came away with a 53-28 victory over U.C. Davis after week-1.
So, what does each team need to do in order to capture a victory on Saturday?
For Oregon: When first looking at this matchup, there is no question the Ducks are once again a heavy favorite and should easily cruise to their second victory in a row. However, Oregon needs to concentrate on holding on to the ball and avoiding costly turnovers.
As the Ducks experienced last week, costly turnovers can easily shift a team’s momentum. Therefore, the Ducks need to come out strong on both sides of the ball and pile up points early on to finish off the Cavaliers.
Oregon also needs to show improvement on defense. As a crowd of 53,000 plus saw last Saturday, the Duck’s have some work to do here and need to avoid making the same mistakes as they did last weekend. Look for last week’s defensive player of the week, Troy Dye, to have another big game, along with shutdown cornerbacks Ugo Amadi and Arrion Springs. By doing so, Virginia will have a tough time putting up 28 points against the Ducks, like U.C. Davis did last Saturday.
For Virginia: Although Virginia will be heading into Saturday’s game as an underdog, the Cavaliers seem to do better when playing higher ranked opponents, such as when the Cavaliers played well against favored opponents Notre Dame and North Carolina last season, but ultimately fell just short. Look for Virginia to try to replicate a similar strategy that was used by U.C. Davis last Saturday.
As fans witnessed last weekend, opposing teams have a better chance of slowing down the Ducks by using field position and time of possession to their advantage. In the third quarter of last weekend’s game, the Aggies ran 11 minutes and 45 seconds off the clock, while scoring 14 points. Virginia will need to bleed off the clock as much as possible in order to keep the Ducks’ offensive machine off the field.
For Virginia to have a chance at winning this uneven matchup, their eleventh starting quarterback in twelve years, Kurt Benkert, must be locked-in on Saturday. After transferring from Eastern Carolina University earlier this year, Benkert completed his first college start last weekend against Richmond, going 26-34, throwing for 264 yards, with three touchdowns, and one interception. Benkert will have to have the game of his life and put even better numbers than he did last weekend in order to pull off an upset on Saturday.
Finally, the Cavaliers defense needs to make sure they don’t have a repeat performance, by giving up 524 yards and 24 first downs to Oregon, like they did against Richmond last weekend. Furthermore, junior middle linebacker Micah Kiser, who led the ACC last year in tackles and is once again ranked as one of the top ten defenders in the ACC, will need to contain Oregon playmakers like Darren Carrington, Royce Freeman, and Charles Nelson from having big yardage plays, which is easier said than done.
Prediction: Oregon will show improvement over last week, and once again dominate this matchup by cruising to another victory, with a final score of 63-17. This time, Prukop will be pulled out of the game by the fourth quarter, and fans will get their first look at true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert.
Wrap Up Notes: Although the Oregon Ducks won’t be hosting any official prospect visits during the Virginia game, four-star inside linebacker Jacob Phillips, who visited Oregon last weekend, said his visit was “really special and he would definitely be comfortable playing at Oregon one day.”