After three games, the Virginia Cavaliers are still searching for their first win under new head coach Bronco Mendenhall. On Saturday, the Cavaliers will once again attempt to get into the win column as they will host the Central Michigan Chippewas from the MAC.
Last weekend, the Cavaliers lost a heartbreaker to the UConn Huskies 13-10. Virginia walk-on kicker Alex Furbank missed a 20-yard field goal attempt that would have forced overtime as time expired.
On the others side, Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush threw six touchdown passes as the Chippewas defeated the UNLV Rebels 44-21. Rush finished the day 20-of-33 for 352 yards and his six scoring strikes were a Kelly/Short Stadium record.
Saturday will be only the second time the Cavaliers and Chippewas have played one another. The other meeting took place back in 1996 as Virginia defeated Central Michigan 55-21 in Scott Stadium.
Central Michigan at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 24 at 12:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN3/ACC Network
Spread: Central Michigan -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Virginia’s Offense
In their first three games of the season, the Cavaliers’ have been pedestrian on offense, to say the least. Virginia has averaged fewer than 19 points per game, which puts them second to last in the ACC and 113th (out of 128 teams) in the FBS.
Transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert has thrown for 698 yards and five touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions, including one last week against UConn.
Virginia’s running game also has mediocre, currently sitting at 109th in the FBS at 123.7 yards per game.
Against a high-powered offense like Central Michigan, it will be important for the Cavaliers to run the ball or at least extend some drives to keep the Cavaliers’ defense off the field.
2. Central Michigan’s Offense
Cooper Rush is the leader of the Chippewas’ offense, which is averaging 470 yards (37th in the FBS) and 41 points (tied for 29th) per game. On the season, Rush has thrown for 957 yards, 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
Central Michigan also is averaging 150 rushing yards per game. Virginia has given up an average of 31 points per game, so Cavaliers head coach Bronco Mendenhall will need to come up with a way to slow down the Chippewas’ high-scoring offense.
3. Andrew Brown
Last week against UConn, Virginia defensive lineman Andrew Brown recorded six total tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and a sack. Mendenhall and his coaching staff are hoping Brown continues to make an impact up front, especially with the offense struggling to find any sort of consistency.
This season, Brown has 14 tackles and a fumble recovery, and he will need to make some big plays to help the Cavaliers’ defense limit Central Michigan’s offense.
Getting former BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall to leave Provo, Utah, for Charlottesville was a home-run hire for Virginia. The problem is, his predecessor, Mike London, didn’t exactly leave the cupboard stocked with talent.
Virginia should hang around in this game if for no other reasons the Cavaliers are well coached and it’s at home. However, Central Michigan’s offense should be able to win the time of possession battle and move the ball down the field with ease in the second half.
Expect Cooper Rush and the Chippewas’ balanced attack to be the difference on the road as CMU scores its second victory over a Power Five team this season.
Prediction: Central Michigan 41, Virginia 24
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.