CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — BYU matches up with Virginia this Saturday in its first game of the 2013 season. There isn't a whole lot of familiarity between the two programs, but we asked Virginia insider Brad Franklin five questions to gain better perspective of what the Cougars will be facing.
Franklin is the publisher of cavscorner.com on the Rivals network and knows the team as well as anyone.
What did Franklin have to say about the upcoming matchup between BYU and Virginia? Let's find out.
Email: [email protected] Twitter: @BrandonCGurney
How does Virginia, and its fans, regard BYU and the matchup this Saturday?
"Fans aren't real happy about having to face BYU to open up, to be honest, but it has nothing to do with not respecting BYU. BYU is seen as a very tough opponent and someone most fans aren't expecting a win against. With Virginia playing Oregon the week after BYU, fans generally wish the Cavaliers had a more 'winnable' game in week one, since no one is expecting a win against Oregon.
"Virginia fans are pessimistic by nature, and have a lot of doubts going into the season. BYU is seen as a team that Virginia can beat, but it's going to be a very tough game, and probably not the game you want right before Oregon."
Break down Virginia's offense. What are the strengths there and who are the play-makers?
"Virginia runs what could best be described as a pro-style offense. It will go two-back and also run multiple tight-end formations. The Cavaliers will want to establish the run-game with the hopes of utilizing play-action effectively.
"The strength of the offense is probably with the skilll-position players. Virginia returns most of its receivers, running backs and tight ends, but also adds Taquan Mizzell (5-10, 185), who was a five-star prospect and a true freshman with a lot of promise. Big things are expected from him, and it will be interesting how effective he is starting out.
"The biggest question mark for Virginia's offense is at quarterback. David Watford (6-2, 200) redshirted last year and really improved his overall play by running the scout team. He's a dual-threat quarterback who coaches believe is poised for a productive season. How effective he proves to be will go a long way in determining how good Virginia is this season.
"Tight end is a key position for Virginia, and although he's listed as a third-stringer, look for Jake McGee (6-6, 250) to be the primary play-maker from that group."
Break down Virginia's defense. What are the strengths there and who are the play-makers?
"Virginia runs out of a 4-3 base defense and they like to be aggressive. It's sort of the same mentality that Bronco Mendenhall had when he ran the 3-3-5 defense there. They like to throw multiple blitz packages at an offense and disrupt the rhythm and keep an opposing offense on its heels.
"The best pass-rusher is defensive end Eli Harold (6-6, 230.) He played well as a true freshman and is expected to make a lot of plays, primarily when rushing the quarterback.
"Overall, Virginia's defensive line and linebackers lost some good talent from last year's team and will have some question marks at those position groups.
"There aren't many questions in the secondary, however, and that will be the strength of the defense. The team returns every starter from last year at both safety and at cornerback. Overall, coaches like the potential of the defense and feel they have enough athletic play-makers to be an effective unit."
What problems does BYU present for Virginia?
"When you think of BYU, you obviously think of Kyle Van Noy, who is one of the best, if not the best, linebacker in the country. He's obviously an incredible play-maker, but all the linebackers there are very good, and that's obviously their strength.
"Virginia is obviously aware of the injury problems BYU has at cornerback and will likely work to exploit the potential weakness at that position. Virginia has good, solid players at receiver that will likely test BYU's corners. The safety position is obviously strong, so that should help in coverage, but look for Virginia to try and use play-action to beat BYU down the field.
"Cody Hoffman is obviously a great receiver, and BYU looks strong at receiver and at running back. Virginia will try and take advantage of BYU's inexperienced offensive line, but keeping up with the pace BYU will have on offense will be a challenge.
"Overall, BYU has a lot of potential on offense and should test Virginia with the pace and the play-makers it has at wide receiver."
What does Virginia need to do in order to win the game?
"Special teams play and turnovers will be key in this game and for the entire season. Special teams play was terrible last season, and coaches demoted their special teams coach, as a result. Look for the special teams play to be improved with the hope that it will go from a big-time weakness to perhaps a strength. Even if Virginia can match BYU's special teams play, it will be a major improvement from last season.
"Turnovers obviously play a big factor with any team, but Virginia rarely won the turnover battle last season. That definitely needs to change, and coaches have really focused on the team's ability to create turnovers and not create them on offense.
"If Virginia can simply match BYU's special teams play and be even in the turnover margin, then a win is possible. Like I said though, BYU is a quality team, and Virginia will have to have a lot of things go its way to win. It won't have to play a perfect game to beat the Cougars, like it will against Oregon, but it will have to play close to perfect to beat a team like BYU."