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Midseason report: Virginia

10/14/2013

The same old issues have vexed Virginia this season, starting with a struggling offense that ranks in the bottom half of the ACC. Headed into the year, the thought was that a new offensive coordinator and new starting quarterback would breathe some life into this group. But that has not panned out to this point.

David Watford has thrown just four touchdown passes to seven interceptions, and Virginia ranks last in the ACC in pass efficiency. But he has not gotten much help from his supporting cast. The receivers remain a work in progress. There simply is no go-to guy for Watford, nor is there anybody who can stretch the field vertically. Tight end Jake McGee leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, which speaks to this issue.

The Hoos have once again had problems holding onto the football, too, ranking last in the ACC in giveaways with 14. Virginia ranked last in the league in turnover margin a season ago; it ranks last in that area once again. The Cavaliers are still struggling with too many penalties, a problem area in 2012 as well.

Defensively, we have seen some signs of life from this group. But the last two weeks have not gone nearly as well -- the Hoos have given up a combined 75 points and nearly 1,000 yards of offense. Still, Virginia has already matched its sack total from a year ago (17) and ranks No. 4 in the nation with 7.0 three-and-outs per game and No. 7 in third-down defense.

The second half of the season will not get any easier, with three ranked teams on the schedule -- Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. Virginia will need a win in one of those games to get back to a bowl game.

Offensive MVP: Jake McGee, TE. The Hoos’ offense has been brutal to watch at times, but McGee’s play stands out. He leads the team in receptions (27), yards (233) and touchdown catches (two) and is one of the best tight ends in the ACC.

Defensive MVP: Brent Urban, DT. Both Urban and Eli Harold have been solid on the Hoos’ defensive front, but Urban has been particularly active inside. Before he got hurt last week against Maryland, he was leading the ACC and No. 15 nationally in pass breakups as a defensive tackle, a pretty impressive feat. He now ranks No. 25 and lead leads all defensive linemen in pass breakups with 1.3 per game.