The Virginia Cavaliers are coming off of an impressive 28-10 victory over William & Mary last Saturday at home. For a team that struggled through the 2016 season with a 2-10 record in head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s debut, a strong start was a welcomed change, even against an opponent from the FCS ranks. Virginia was led by senior quarterback Kurt Benkert, who was 27-for-39 for 262 passing yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win. Benkert said after the game, "That's where we wanted to start. We didn't care what the game looked like. We wanted to come out with a W."
The Indiana Hoosiers will arrive in Charlottesville winless, but head coach Tom Allen’s team was more competitive in its season-opening home loss to Ohio State than the final 49-21 score may indicate. For the better part of three quarters, Indiana gave the Buckeyes all they could handle, until Ohio State pulled away late in the third quarter. Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow had a strong game, finishing 40-of-65 for 410 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Indiana at Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ACC Network
Spread: Indiana -2.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Indiana's passing game vs. Virginia's secondary
Virginia was never truly threatened by William & Mary’s passing game last week, as the Tribe completed just seven of 13 attempts for a measly 72 yards with an interception. Things will be much, much different for the Cavaliers against Indiana, who lit up Ohio State to the tune of 420 yards through the air, albeit needing 68 pass attempts to do so. Hoosier wide receivers Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Luke Timian each finished with double-digit receptions while senior tight end Ian Thomas caught two touchdowns. Considering how much Indiana’s running game struggled against the Buckeyes (17 yards on 27 carries), it would be quite surprising if the Hoosiers didn’t continue to rely on their aerial attack against the Cavaliers. A player to watch in Virginia’s secondary is senior safety Quin Blanding. The two-time All-ACC performer had 12 tackles in the win over William & Mary.
2. Virginia's passing game vs. Indiana's secondary
Kurt Benkert had a solid game against William & Mary, distributing his 27 completions to nine different receivers. Doni Dowling led the way with six catches for 76 yards with the longest play (34-yard TD reception) coming courtesy of Andre Levrone. Take away two big touchdown catches in the third quarter by Parris Campbell (74 yards) and Johnnie Dixon (59), and Indiana’s secondary held its own against J.T. Barrett and the Ohio State passing game. Outside of those two plays, Barrett was 18-of-33 for 171 yards and a score. Virginia’s offense isn’t nearly as explosive or talented as the Buckeyes’ so the Hoosiers should be able to keep the Cavaliers in check on that side of the ball. A key matchup could be Indiana cornerback Rashard Fant covering Virginia’s Dowling.
3. Indiana maintaining offensive momentum with Richard Lagow
While the Hoosiers had success offensively against Ohio State, it should be pointed out that starting quarterback Richard Lagow was replaced by Peyton Ramsey for one series at the end of the first quarter, and then for the final possession with the Buckeyes up by 28 points. Ramsey is more of a running threat, which is the part of IU’s offense that struggled the most in the opener. If the Hoosiers have some early success against Virginia moving the ball will the coaching staff stick with Lagow or switch things up by putting Ramsey out there again? It should be noted that against the Cavaliers, William & Mary was more productive on the ground (168 rushing yards and a touchdown on 41 carries) compared to through the air (72 passing yards on seven completions with an interception).
Virginia should feel pretty good after starting the season off with a convincing win. However, Indiana outplayed Ohio State for most of the first half, and the Hoosiers should enter this game with the belief that they can build off of the offensive success they had against the Buckeyes. The Cavaliers will try to keep place, but Indiana’s offense (and defense for that matter) is a completely different attack compared to what Virginia faced in William & Mary. The Hoosiers take care of business in Charlottesville to give Tom Allen his first win as a collegiate head coach.