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Virginia-TCU Preview

Virginia will play in front of a critical Scott Stadium crowd on Saturday against No. 16 Texas Christian – the last home game in almost a month. A win would build confidence and might take some heat off of Coach Al Groh. A loss leaves the Cavaliers 0-2 heading into two road games sandwiching a bye week.

Virginia is a double-digit underdog, which shows the outside perception of the discrepancy between the Cavaliers and Horned Frogs. Virginia has surprised outsiders with big wins before; this will be one of their most difficult yet.

Three players to watch on Virginia
Jameel Sewell, QB
With Vic Hall likely sidelined because of a hip injury, expect Sewell to receive much of the time at quarterback. TCU has a standout pass defense and its 4-2-5 defensive alignment helps limit wide receivers, so Sewell’s legs are critical. Sewell made a handful of productive plays last weekend, but his interceptions crippled the Cavaliers. Sewell must play error-free at quarterback on Saturday for Virginia to have a chance.

Will Barker, RT
Barker will play some difficult ends this season on the right side, but TCU’s Jerry Hughes might be the best. Hughes led the nation with 15 sacks last season. A converted running back, Hughes is quick coming around the edge. Barker is in his fourth season as a starter and has big-game experience. He stood out last season against Georgia Tech’s defense, earning lineman of the week honors from the ACC. Both players have NFL aspirations in the spring, and Saturday will be a critical test. “I'm sure this game by personnel people, those two players ,will get a real good look,” Groh said.

Ras-I Dowling, CB
Dowling was Virginia’s only player on the preseason all-ACC first team, but he suffered “lapses’ in the season opener. Dowling is a big, physical cornerback, although he was beaten deep on multiple occasions. The receivers only become faster this week. Dowling must elevate his game.

Player to Watch on Texas Christian

Marshall Newhouse, LT
Newhouse enters his third season as a Horned Frogs starter, and he will be critical in protecting quarterback Andy Dalton. The Cavaliers did not have many opportunities to rush the quarterback against William & Mary, so the jury still remains out on Virginia’s pass rush. Newhouse must adjust to blocking a stand-up linebacker in Virginia’s 3-4.

Virginia’s three keys to the game

1) Avoid turnovers
This is obvious after a seven-turnover performance, but William & Mary proved Virginia is not nearly good enough to win a sloppy game. The defense can do only so much for the Cavaliers. At some point, the offense must sustain a drive. That can only happen if it keeps possession.

2) Score on defense/special teams
While Virginia’s offense continues to find its identity, the Cavaliers need to fulfill Groh’s pledge for more non-offensive touchdowns this week. They had an opportunity with a critical dropped interception last week. William & Mary did not provide kick return opportunities, so TCU does not have much of a look of Virginia’s kick returners.

3) Allow a QB to get comfortable
The three-man rotation is down to two with Sewell and Marc Verica. The quarterbacks need to be able to develop a rhythm and not worry about being replaced after a mistake. Productive drives will not just be important for Virginia’s offense, but for the quarterbacks’ confidence.

By Zach Berman  |  September 11, 2009; 4:05 PM ET
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