Breaking into the national spotlight with a huge blowout win on the road against the Texas Longhorns in week two, the BYU Cougars are poised to become this year’s Cinderella story as they have already climbed to No. 21 in the latest polls. The Cougars are 3-0 on the season and will be facing their second power conference team in the first four weeks on Saturday afternoon.
The Virginia Cavaliers have not exactly had the easiest start to the 2014 season when it comes to strength of schedule as they are set to play their third ranked opponent in their first four games of the year. Virginia has put together a solid start, however, taking down the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals a week ago. Will this be the second week in a row it downs a No. 21-ranked opponent?
The Cougars have been more impressive on the ground than through the air in the first three weeks of the season, ranking 23rd in the nation with 258.7 rushing yards per contest. Star quarterback Taysom Hill leads the way for the offense as he is the team’s leading rusher with 356 yards and six touchdowns on 62 carries. Junior running back Jamaal Williams has also put together a solid season, rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry. Hill has been solid under center as well as with his legs, passing for 689 yards and four touchdowns, completing 68 percent of his passes and throwing three interceptions. Jordan Leslie and Mitch Mathews are the only two wide outs with over 100 yards receiving for the Cougars as they have 186 yards and 108 yards with two scores, respectively.
Virginia doesn’t exactly excel in any facet of the game, but the Cavaliers still manage to play every game with tough opponents close to the very end. The Cavaliers rank just 97th in the nation in passing yards per game, 96th in rushing yards per game and 76th in points scored per game, yet seem to always find a way to keep games close. Virginia is led by sophomore quarterback Greyson Lambert who seems to be gaining more and more confidence each week. Lambert has completed 68 percent of his passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns on the season, but his main area of improvement should be his mental mistakes as he’s thrown three interceptions. Canaan Severin leads the team in receptions with 11 for 107 yards and a team-leading two touchdowns while Darius Jennings leads the team in receiving yards with 149 on eight catches with a touchdown. The run game is led by Kevin Parks‘ 173 yards and a touchdown on just 3.3 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Cavaliers have been quite solid this season. Virginia has managed to keep teams out of the endzone as much as possible, holding opponents to just 20.7 points per game while allowing 354 yards per contest. Both of those marks rank in the top half of the nation. BYU has been even more impressive, allowing just 14 points per game and ranking 24th in the nation in terms of yards allowed per game with just 312.7.
Virginia will travel to BYU to take on the Cougars at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 20. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Virginia 24, BYU 26
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.