1) Virginia started the year 4-2, pushing UCLA and BYU to the brink in both of its early losses, but the Cavaliers have dropped their last three. What accounts for the recent slide, and should FSU expect to see the UVA of the first half of the season or the one that has lost the last three?
No one really knows which Virginia will show up on Saturday. In the beginning of the season, UVa executed and were much more efficient with its possession, however, over 60 percent of Virginia's points in those first four games came from takeaways. In the last four games, UVa's defense has managed to force two turnovers with the offensive turning around and scoring just three points-not a winning combo.
With the defense not forcing takeovers, the offense have not produced enough to win games. During UVa's losing streak, the 'Hoos have only managed six points-a field goal against Duke and a field goal against North Carolina. The Cavs also struggle in the redzone and often have to settle for the field goal rather than the touchdown.
Whether or not Florida State will see UVa from the first half or the second half of the season will depend on UVa's execution and psyche coming into the game.
2) UVA has been strong on the line of scrimmage all season. What do the Cavs do best on the lines and how might they match up with Florida State up front?
There is no doubt that Virginia's defensive front seven is the team's strength this season. Defensive end Eli Harold has piled on the weight this season and is fast off the edge. With Harold and Max Valles rushing off the edge, and David Dean and Mike Moore piling on the pressure against FSU's inexperienced center, expect Jameis Winston to have to deal with a lot more pressure than he is used to. However, if Winston can get rid og the ball quick, this could be a long game for UVa, who have struggled against faster paced offenses the past few weeks.
On the other hand the offensive line has been a pleasant surprise for UVa. Coach Scott Wachenheim had plenty of injuries heading into the season, but his men in the trenches have allowed running back Kevin Parks to really blossom this season. Offensive guards Cody Wallace and Ryan Doull have really stepped this season. Wallace has the ability to play left and right guard and has really helped UVa establish a run game with Parks, Khalek Shepherd and Taquan Mizzell. The only doubt heading into the game on Saturday will be Eric Smith, the right tackle sprained his ankle against Georgia Tech last weekend, however, Mike London is confident he will be back for the game.
3) How does the UVA pass defense match up with Jameis Winston and the Florida State passing attack?
This matchup will be the big key to the game. Virginia's defense has been able to stop the run, however, have struggled against plays downfield. As many in the ACC have come to expect from a Jon Tenuta defense, the 'Hoos will blitz and blitz often. By doing that, UVa has often left things open for big gains (cc: North Carolina loss, where the 'Hoos allowed three scoring plays of 50 yards or more). Two players to watch in UVa's secondary are All-American Anthony Harris and true freshman and former five-star recruit Quin Blanding. Blanding currently leads the team and the ACC with 89 tackles, and has two interceptions this season. However, UVa's cornerback group is the weakest link to this defense, with their players often out of position against quicker offenses. So this could be a long evening for the 'Hoos.
4) What weaknesses does UVA have coming into this game and how might Florida State take advantage of them?
The biggest weakness is UVa's lack of balance on offense. Right now the 'Hoos are very dependent on their run game. Parks is UVa's work horse, and is being used as a receiver and a tailback. Without him, UVa just can't seem to produce. Virginia has been very inconsistent at quarterback, with Greyson Lambert completing 60 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and eight interceptions, while Matt Johns is only completing 55 percent of his passes. If FSU stops UVa's run game, that would force the 'Hoos to throw, shortening their time on the field and tiring out their defense-the recipe for most of their losses this season.
5) Where might UVA have an edge in this game and what will need to happen for them to win the game?
UVa has the edge in the trenches. The 'Hoos front seven on defense can cause havoc on FSU's offensive line. In order for the 'Hoos to have a chance to win, they will need to force Jameis Winston to make decision he does not want to; the Cavaliers will need to force turnovers. UVa does not win unless the defense forces turnover and the offenses capitalizes on them.
In the same vein, UVa will need to be very efficient in the redzone. You only get a few opportunities against a team like FSU, they need to take every single one-the margin of error for UVa is very small. They can't afford to get deep into the redzone and not take away points.