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Virginia Preview: By the Numbers, How to Watch, Key Matchups

Everything you need to be properly informed going into tomorrow’s game!

Virginia v Oregon Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

KICKOFF: 1:30 p.m.

TV: SNY

ANNOUNCERS: Eric Frede (play-by-play), Andy Gresh (color analyst)

RADIO: UConn IMG Radio Network (WTIC 1080 AM, WILI 1400 AM, WAVZ 1300 AM, WGCH 1490 AM), SIRIUS 93, XM 203, XM 964 (Internet), TuneIn Radio app

ANNOUNCERS: Joe D'Ambrosio (play-by-play), Wayne Norman (color analyst), Ken Sweitzer (sideline)

POINT SPREAD: UConn -4.5

SERIES HISTORY: This is the third time the two schools have met with each winning at home. Virginia won the first matchup 17-16 in 2007 in Charlottesville, VA on a late field goal from Chris Gould. In 2008, UConn beat down the Cavaliers, 45-10, at the Rent as Donald Brown ran for 206 yards and three touchdowns.

DEPTH CHART FOR VIRGINIA GAME

Fun With Numbers

4 - Current Husky coaches who have previously worked at Virginia. Head coach Bob Diaco was linebackers coach and special teams coordinator from 2006-2008. Quarterbacks coach Wayne Lineburg was a graduate assistant from 1998-1999 and then returned to serve as an offensive assistant from 2007-2009. Diaco hired co-defensive coordinators Vincent Brown and Anthony Poindexter from UVA, with Poindexter also playing there and earning All-America honors as a junior and senior.

79.6 - Bryant Shirreffs’ completion percentage through two games after a 23-26 performance in the Navy game which set a program record.

20 - Receptions for Noel Thomas through two games, for 186 yards and a touchdown. Good. Thomas’ 10 receptions per game are 3rd in the NCAA.

18 - Wins for UConn against current members of the ACC. Victims include Duke (2), Louisville (4), Syracuse (5), Pittsburgh (5), Virginia and Wake Forest (1 each)

6,092 - Miles UVA will have traveled in eight days leading up to the game at the Rent on Saturday after visiting Oregon last week.

99 - Career wins for Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall, all from his time at BYU.

155.1 - Bryant Shirreff’s passer rating, good for 32nd in the nation, higher than Houston’s Greg Ward, Cincinnati’s Hayden Moore and Syracuse’s Eric Dungey.

Projections

Football Study Hall’s metrics project this to be the closest game of the weekend, giving UConn a 51.1% chance to beat Virginia and a 0.5 margin of victory. Currently, S&P has the Huskies as the 81st best team in the country while the Cavaliers sit at 68th.

Keys to the Game

UConn Rushing Attack?

Bryant Shirreffs is currently UConn’s leading rusher. That needs to change. Virginia runs a 3-4 scheme defense, but the front seven lacks experience. Six of the seven positions has either a freshman or sophomore starting or listed as a backup.

We have learned, however, not to assume the UConn offensive line will simply run them over. They should be able to open up some holes for Arkeel Newsome and Ron Johnson to run through. If UConn can manage to run the ball even decently, it forces UVA to respect the play action and will open up the field for the rest of the offense.

UConn Secondary vs. Kurt Benkert

Benkert will be the best passing quarterback the Huskies face at this point in the season, though that isn’t saying much. Benkert ranks 76th in the nation with a passer rating of 130.0 and has shown he can be mistake prone, with three interceptions in two games.

UConn’s secondary needs to hold up in coverage and prevent big plays after two down performances. They need to force Benkert to make bad decisions and turn the ball over. Limiting the Cavaliers through the air will put the Huskies in a very good spot to win this game.

Stopping UVA Running Backs Albert Reid and Taquan Mizzel

The Huskies’ run defense is considered to be a strength, but that will be put to the test on Saturday. Cavalier running backs Albert Reid and Taquan Mizzel are a formidable duo, with Reid playing more of the power-back role and Mizzel as the scat-back.

Reid is off to a great start this season, with 154 yards on 21 attempts, good for a solid 7.3 yards-per-carry. Mizzel has been productive in the passing game, catching 6 passes for 35 yards. He had 1385 yards from scrimmage last year with eight touchdowns.

Prediction

This UConn team is better than most think, and Virginia is not very good.

The Huskies will have an advantage in the trenches defensively, where a struggling Cavalier offensive line will have its hands full with Luke Carrezola, Foley Fatukasi, and Mikal Myers. Each of this year’s games has seen UConn’s opponent score a defensive touchdown, so the total points allowed on the season is misleading. Make no mistake, Diaco still has a really strong defense.

Offensively, the Huskies will have to prove that last week’s success wasn’t a fluke, and also that the staff learned from it. Virginia’s defense is still adjusting to a scheme change and has allowed 37 and 44 points to FCS Richmond and No. 24 Oregon, respectively.

This Saturday we’ll watch the Huskies take care of business against a team they really need to beat. W, 21-14