Opponent Outlook: Virginia

A look at the Virginia Cavaliers, one of Syracuse football's 2015 opponents.

Team: Virginia

2014 Record: 5-7

Returning starters: QB Matt Johns, CB Demetrious Nicholson, S Quin Blanding, RB Taquan Mizzell, DT Andrew Brown, WR Canaan Severin, K Ian Frye, CB Maurice Canady, DE Mike Moore, OG Ross Burbank, DT David Dean, OT Eric Smith, OT Jay Whitmire, OT Sadiq Olanrewaju, DT Donte Wilkins

Most important offensive player: Matt Johns is the most important offensive player. I know it is cliché to put the quarterback as the most important player, however, UVa has had so much turmoil and changes at the position, that if Johns can provide some stability to the role that will give the Cavaliers a chance to establish a good running game hence a balanced attack.

Most important defensive player: Micah Kiser is the most important defensive player. The way Jon defensive coordinator runs his defense, the middle linebacker is effectively the quarterback of the defense. Henry Coley was that guy last year for the Cavaliers, however, Coley graduated and Kiser is left to fill some big shoes. How well he does could effectively determine how well the defense does at reading the other offense.

Emerging offensive player: Although true freshmen David Eldridge and Olamide Zacchaeus have both impressed during the first few days of camp, I hesitate to pick a first-year. However, a guy that could have a breakout year is Taquan Mizzell. Under Chris Beatty, the new running backs coach at UVa, the former four-star recruit could have a breakout year. He has looked a lot better during the camp then any of his past seasons. Plus this running backs group is probably the most talented group collectively the ‘Hoos have had in while. So if Mizzell does not produce, others will certainly take his place. So the pressure is on for him.

Emerging defensive player: This could be the year for defensive tackle Andrew Brown. Brown is a former four-star prospect who enrolled early at UVa last Spring, however, had to sit out because of injury. Coming in to his second season at UVa, he is confident and he is explosive. He has probably been the most impressive defensive player on the team. However, don’t sleep on defensive end Trent Corney either. It took him a little while to learn the American game, he is Canadian, but Corney is very athletic and could easily step into the role left behind by Eli Harold.

How they matchup with Syracuse: I give Virginia the edge in this matchup, however, this is honestly a toss up. Cuse and UVa are mirror copies of each other. Both head coaches are defensive minded and have built a strong defense, however, their offenses lack production and continue to be a main topic of discussion among the fan base. The key match up will be in the trenches, because UVa’s offensive line, unlike seasons past, could be a strength on that offense. The ‘Hoos have experience on both the first team and second team lines, which provide a good advantage.

Season outlook: This could be another tough year for Mike London’s team. The ‘Hoos non-conference schedule is once again one of the toughest in the country-the Cavs start on the road at UCLA and welcome Notre Dame and Boise State in the first four weeks. Although the Cavaliers return plenty of men with experience, they lost so many key guys on the defensive side of the ball. With the UVa offense inconsistent, and with the Cavaliers losing key wide receiver T.J. Thorpe for the first ten weeks, the young UVa defense will have a lot of pressure on them to perform. In order for the ‘Hoos do survive this season, the defense will have to carry the load for a little while, while the offense begins to click. But if the offense doesn’t click, that’s when the real problems arise. The ‘Hoos are favored in a few games this season, but things are shaking up to be another four or five win season.

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