Indiana Hoosiers (3-2 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (1-3 SU, 2-1 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, October 10, 2009, Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va. TV: ESPN360.com
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Indiana +6.5/Virginia -6.5
Saturday’s matchups between the Indiana Hoosiers and Virginia Cavaliers may not decide if the Big Ten or ACC is the stronger football conference, but it will be a key non-conference game for two struggling FBS programs.
Indiana started the season 3-0 with close wins over Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan and a convincing victory at Akron. The Hoosiers almost got to 4-0 at Michigan in their Big Ten opener, but a late touchdown pass from Wolverines quarterback Tate Forcier gave Michigan a 36-33 win. Then, the Hoosiers fell to Ohio State, 33-14.
Indiana’s best two performances this season have come on the road, in their 38-21 win at Akron and three-point loss at Michigan. The reason for those strong performances is that they have been able to score points and get off to good starts.
At Akron, the Hoosiers started the game with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Ray Fisher. Their running game was quite effective, as they ran for 182 yards on 45 carries. With the running game working, quarterback Ben Chappell didn’t have to as much, but he did complete 18-of-28 pass attempts for 163 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Their defense came to play as well, as they intercepted Akron quarterback Matt Rodgers four times.
At Michigan, the Hoosiers took an early lead with a 25-yard touchdown run by Tandon Doss. Darius Willis dominated on the ground with 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. In all, the Hoosiers ran for 197 yards. Chappell passed for 270 yards and an interception.
Virginia has the No. 8 pass defense in the country, allowing just 156.5 yards per game. But the Hoosiers won’t win with their passing attack. If they win, it will be on the ground. The Cavaliers rush defense has not been as good as their pass defense, allowing 145.3 rush yards per game.
Indiana, meanwhile, is allowing 119.2 rushing yards per game and just 3.2 yards per carry, and 218.2 passing yards per game.
Virginia did not start the season well at all. The Cavaliers opened the season with a 26-14 home loss to William & Mary, an FCS team. Then, they lost to nationally ranked TCU 30-14 and they lost 37-34 at Southern Miss.
But on Saturday, Virginia’s season may have turned around. The Cavaliers defense stepped up and led them to a 16-3 win at North Carolina in their ACC opener. Virginia shut down UNC’s rushing attack, allowing just 49 yards on 23 carries.
Virginia hasn’t been able to get much out of its passing game. Quarterback Jameel Sewell has completed 51.4 percent of his pass attempts and has 648 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s also been sacked 17 times in four games. Sewell is a dual-threat quarterback, but his running hasn’t been impressive either. He has just 88 yards on 70 carries, a measly 1.3 yards-per-carry average. If the Cavaliers can hand the ball off more to running back Mikell Simpson, they might be more efficient on offense. Simpson has only carried the ball 33 times this season, but he is averaging five yards per carry. He had his best game against UNC, with 100 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Sewell ran for -10 yards on 13 carries.
The win over UNC was Virginia’s only win in its last eight games. The Cavaliers are 1-4 in their last five home games. Indiana is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 road games and 1-9 SU in its last 10 road games, but the Hoosiers are 1-1 SU and 2-0 ATS on the road this season. The total has gone over in four of Indiana’s last five road games. The Cavaliers have won their last five home games that have come right after two straight road games.
Ryno’s Pick: Indiana has been very good on offense. The Hoosiers scored 33 points on Michigan and two touchdowns against Ohio State. Virginia does not have a very good offense. They will control the clock by handing the ball off to Simpson, but as long as the Hoosiers can contain Sewell they will be able to limit Virginia’s scoring. The Cavaliers proved to have solid defense by holding UNC to a field goal, but Indiana has been scoring points on better defenses than Virginia. If this game was last week, Indiana may have been favored. The Hoosiers would have been coming off a near win at Michigan, and Virginia was winless. But because the Cavaliers had an impressive win over North Carolina, now they are 6.5-point favorites. The 6.5-point line makes it look like there is value in taking the home team, but really the value is in the Hoosiers, who are probably the better team and have been playing well on the road this season. Take Indiana +6.5.