Advertise with usContact UsRTI Team

Opponent Preview: Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia Football // Photo via Virginia Athletics

Rocky Top Insider is going to be doing a series of opponent previews in late July and early August ahead of the 2023 season. We will take a look at the biggest offseason storylines surrounding all 12 of Tennessee’s opponents this season.

First up, the Virginia Cavaliers.

Tennessee will face off against Virginia to open the 2023 season in Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, on September 2 at 1 p.m. ET.

What happened in 2022

In their first year under head coach Tony Elliott, Virginia finished with a lowly 3-7 record. The Cavaliers’ offense significantly underwhelmed, specifically at the quarterback position. Virginia also lost three games by a combined seven points.

The Cavaliers’ season was cut short when a tragic on-campus shooting resulted in the death of three players. After the shootings, Coach Elliott noted the program must ‘move forward, not move on.’

Heading into 2023, Virginia will look to find a way to win the close games they lost last year, continue to trend in the right direction on defense and improve mightily on offense.

Virginia Offense Outlook

While Virginia’s offense was putrid in 2022, they might be worse in 2023.

Quarterback Brennan Armstrong, who was supposed to be one of the ACC’s best signal callers as Virginia’s starter in 2022, had an underwhelming season in Elliott’s offense and has since transferred to NC State. The Cavaliers now turn to FCS Monmouth transfer Tony Muskett.

Additionally, Virginia lost their top four wide receivers from a year ago, including standout Dontayvion Wicks who was drafted in the 5th round of the NFL Draft.

Throw in the fact Virginia must retool its offensive line, things could get ugly in Charlottesville this year.

The running back room is the Cavaliers’ best strength on offense with four solid options, including Clemson transfer Kobe Pace. However, not one of the four backs (Pace, Perris Jones, Xavier Brown, and Mike Hollins) have rushed for over 700 yards in a season.

We’ll see if Virginia’s offense can improve after a disastrous year one under Tony Elliott. But even if it does, don’t expect the Cavaliers to have all of last season’s issues ironed out by Week 1 against Tennessee.

More From RTI: Former Tennessee Linebacker Waived Prior to Training Camp

Virginia Defense Outlook

Virginia is much better on the defensive side of the ball. The Cavaliers made significant improvements from 2021 to 2022, finishing 44th in the FBS in yards allowed per game and 20th in yards allowed per play.

Virginia lost some of their best defensive players from a year ago to the transfer portal, but the Cavs return their entire front seven.

Chico Bennett Jr. and Kam Butler are two names that can get after the quarterback, and defensive tackles Aaron Faumi and Jahmeer Carter round out one of the top defensive lines in the ACC.

Virginia is fairly strong at safety but incredibly weak at cornerback. If Tennessee’s offensive line can keep pressure off Joe Milton III, the Vols’ receivers could potentially have a field day in Nashville.

Early Prediction

If Tennessee’s defense shows up, it will be hard for Virginia to move the ball. Muskett could come out and surprise everyone in his first ever game against Power Five competition, much less SEC competition, but it’s doubtful.

Tennessee’s rush defense was really solid a year ago, and the Cavaliers’ rushing attack doesn’t pose too much of a threat to lose sleep over.

The Vols’ offense may take a while to get going, and if the offensive line struggles out of the gate, this could turn into a low-scoring affair.

But in the end, Virginia’s secondary will simply be unable to contain Tennessee’s four wideouts for 60 minutes.

Year three of the Josh Heupel era starts off on the right foot, as Milton and co. cruise to a season-opening victory in Music City.

Tennessee 38, Virginia 10

Similar Articles


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweet Us