Priorities, Picks, & Power Players – W&M

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For each game this season, The Sabre will present a final peek at the week’s match-up with a new feature called Priorities, Picks, and Power Players. In the “Priorities” section, we take a look at the keys to a Virginia victory. In the “Picks” section, Sabre Editor Kris Wright and another Sabre representative make a case for who will win and give you a final score. In the “Power Players” section, The Sabre predicts who some of the key players could be for that Saturday’s showdown.

Take a look at the William & Mary edition!

Priorities

1. No turnovers. Virginia debuts the spread offense of Gregg Brandon on Saturday. Chances are, there will be some cringe moments – timing issues, mistakes with reads, and the like. UVa can live through those if it doesn’t turn the ball over. Turnovers end drives and often lead to opponent points. Don’t give William & Mary any help.

2. Attack the corners. The Tribe’s defense looks pretty solid in terms of individual standouts and ‘big play’ statistics like sacks and interceptions. But the cornerbacks are inexperienced – of the four players on the two deep, only Ben Cottingham has played more than 3 games at DB. Virginia should make those players prove themselves in coverage.

3. Stop one. William & Mary’s offense averaged 32.8 points per game in 2008 and the top running back, receiver, and tight end return. The offense piled up nearly 2,700 yards passing and nearly 1,800 yards rushing. Virginia needs to take away one of those options – either stop the run or smother the pass, but don’t let the visitors pick a poison.

4. Find a spark. As the offseason has slowly moved along, it seems like a lot of Virginia fans aren’t really sure what to make of the football program. Those fans need something to get excited about. Block a kick, return a punt, throw a deep bomb – anything to juice things up.

Picks

KRIS ON THE TRIBE

First things first. Virginia is at home and home is sweet for the Cavaliers in non-conference games. Al Groh owns a 15-4 non-ACC home record during his tenure and the Hoos have won 38 of 48 non-conference home games since 1987. In other words, UVa generally doesn’t lose games like this one.

With that said, William & Mary isn’t an easy out. The Tribe is tough and offensively explosive. They’ve hung close in these contests against FBS teams in recent years (within in two touchdowns in 4 of 5 outings), including a 34-24 loss at N.C. State last season. The visitors will be competitive.

Competitive doesn’t mean an upset is in the works though. Ultimately, Virginia will pull this one out. The speed in the backfield with players like Vic Hall, Torrey Mack , Jameel Sewell , and Mikell Simpson will pose major problems for the Tribe and I think UVa will have a big running day out of the spread. I’d expect something in the neighborhood of 200 yards rushing when all is said and done. Throw in the anticipated passing boost of the spread and UVa could have a big day on offense … something this team needs in terms of confidence heading toward two tough non-league games.

I’m projecting at least one non-offensive touchdown too – I’m guessing a blocked kick returned for a touchdown.

UVA 31, W&M 16

– Kris Wright, Sabre Editor

PAUL ON THE TRIBE

Does this game have upset potential for Virginia? Absolutely. William & Mary can play. The Hoos were very nearly taken down by Richmond last season. A potentially rough-around-the-edges Virginia offense will play against a strengthened Tribe defense, and a William & Mary offense that put up 32.8 points per game will play against a Virginia defense whose inexperience is at its focal point: linebackers.

This game also has the potential to be a blowout in Virginia’s favor. Gregg Brandon’s offense could feast on an FCS team that has seen nothing of the sort. The Hoo offensive line could run over the Tribe’s D-Line, opening up massive holes for both QB and running back; both of W&M’s defensive ends are less than 250 pounds. Ron Prince’s new special teams look could make a big play on either side of the ball. And, moreover, the Cavs have always been good at home.

Where my thoughts of an upset really come to a halt, though, is in the simple fact that William & Mary will be testing out essentially a new quarterback. The Tribe offense was outstanding last year, but that was with Jake Phillips throwing 21 TD passes. Sure, R.J. Archer started one game and did pretty well; that was 11 months ago. Will he do the same in his debut as a regular starter against Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, not to mention Anthony Poindexter’s experienced secondary? I don’t think so.

Jonathan Grimes is a good runner, and the Tribe returns three receivers who caught at least 30 balls last season – fine. With a new QB against Virginia’s defense, though, I don’t see W&M putting up more than 10 points Saturday. (Exception: W&M has a meaningless score late in a Virginia blowout win.) Whether the Cavalier offense is where it needs to be or not, it will do enough to score more than 10 of its own.

UVA 20, W&M 10

– Paul Montana, Sabre Intern

Power Players

Vic Hall. The Sabre’s projection to start at quarterback, Vic Hall will get a chance to make plays with the ball in his hands this weekend. Expect Hall to be used heavily in read option and classic option plays so that he can use his legs to create offense. Will he match his 100-yard rushing performance from last season’s VT game?

Torrey Mack . A redshirt freshman running back,Torrey Mack has yet to play a single down in a Virginia uniform. No matter. Expect Mack to see plenty of touches against the Tribe on either offense or special teams.

John-Kevin Dolce . Wait, a non-defensive starter is going to make a big impact against W&M? John-Kevin Dolce is the leading returning sack artist after posting 5 last season. Expect Al Groh to find a way to slow down the run, meaning the Tribe will be in obvious passing situations frequently. Dolce will make something happen.

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