By Derek DeBurger

On paper, the Thursday night football game against Virginia seems like a very easy game; that’s because it should be a very easy game.

Virginia is a perfect example of a team that gives it their all each and every game but just doesn’t have the talent to keep up. The Cavs are a fast-starting team that punches teams in the mouth, shocking opposing players with their high energy. Luckily, Louisville has been a great first-quarter team this season, sustaining a high energy level throughout a full 60 minutes with their talent.

The Cards have outscored opponents 69-7 in the first quarter of games this season. Those 7 points came from the lone loss of the season at Pittsburgh.

Virginia has also been a very aggressive team, frequently (and unsuccessfully) going for it on fourth down. Despite offensive coordinator turned head coach Tony Elliot’s willingness to throw caution to the wind, the Cavs’ two wins this season had nothing overly impressive from their performances; Virginia just hit on their big swings in crucial moments.

A system of mediocrity

Offensively this Virginia team is nothing to really write home about. They’ve had to go back and forth between two quarterbacks this year, Tony Muskett and Anthony Colandrea, due to injuries. Both quarterbacks are fine, they just don’t have much around them to help them out.

Whoever is at quarterback will have one weapon in wide receiver Malik Washington. Washington is a fantastic receiver who is excellent at finding gaps in defenses and getting open, especially in scramble drills. Washington leads Virginia’s receiving corps with an amazing 1044 yards in just nine games. He only has six touchdowns on the year, but that’s more about the shortcomings around him than himself.

The Virginia running game has been the exact opposite. The Cavs are ranked 106 in the country in rushing yards per game, all while having two quarterbacks that are actually effective runners. Their leading rusher on the year, running back Perris Jones, has only 386 yards.

Defensively, there is almost nothing positive you can say about this team. Virginia ranks 115 in the nation in defensive points per game, giving up 32.4 points to opponents. The leader in sacks for this team, defensive end Kam Butler, has not played since suffering a season-ending injury in week four of this year. Outside of Butler, Virginia only has 4.5 sacks on the season.

Their secondary has been doing a decent job getting in passing lanes and coming down with pass breakups. Virginia is only giving up a modest 215.1 passing yards per game, but that’s probably because they’re giving up 180.3 rushing yards per game and teams don’t feel the need to risk anything through the air.

Rightfully heavy favorites

This is a bad Virginia team that everyone knows is bad; it shouldn’t be much of a contest. Louisville is a roughly 20-point favorite in this game according to Las Vegas odds makers, which feels about right. Louisville is 10-0 in their last 10 home games, and the Cards have won each of those games by 10 or more points. The Cards have also covered the spread (won by more than odds makers are expecting) in each of the last 10 home games. If they win against UVA and North Carolina loses, Louisville could punch their ticket to the first ACC championship game in program history.

This very Virginia team upset then No. 10 UNC in Chapel Hill. With stakes high, it would be easy for the Cards to go out and lay an egg.

This late in the season there are no games you can overlook, and I think the Cards learned that lesson against Pitt. I’m expecting an easy Cards victory, and one step closer to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

Photo Courtesy // Taris Smith, U of L Athletics