Welcome back Wahoos to another exciting season of UVa Football. In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the ticket sales you haven’t, the Cavaliers begin their season next Saturday at home against a perfect season ease-in opponent: the UCLA Bruins. I’m sure by now you have read countless stories about the coaches say they are embracing the playbook, how everyone is coming together on this unit, and this will be a breakout season for everyone up to and including the water boy, but we all know that will probably not be the case. Is there another 2007 or 2011 in this team? Sure, but right now it’s not about pockets of greatness, it’s about consistent winning and that hasn’t been around since the late-Welsh to the early-Groh era. So what are we in store for this season? Here is the short, short version you can keep on you to fool your friends that you have been following the team in the off-season.
The Good: Running Back Kevin Parks is on a quest to break 1000-yards again this season and his touchdown output of 12 from last year is a very reachable goal. And if there is a possibility that he doesn’t get there, it is because Smoke Mizzell is finally healthy and showing the promise that came with him from high school. In addition, youth is beginning to be served at the wide receiver position, with Keeon Johnson and Canaan Severin looking to show the incumbents a thing or two.
The Bad: The Offensive Line is a patchwork job to say the least. Still not settled, graduation and injuries will cause last minute changes that could see movement all season long. Virginia’s #1 target from a year ago, TE Jake McGee had a falling out with the current coaching staff, and is now at Florida, leaving the Hoos without a proven offensive weapon down the middle.
The Unknown: We all think that THIS time we have settled on a Quarterback. Greyson Lambert finally takes over, but like his predicesor, does not have a complete start under his belt. His measurables are good enough to play for any D-1 team in the country, but he will need some help early on against some stiff competition.
The Good: The Safety posistion might be the best UVa has had since the late 90s as First Team All-American Anthony Harris will line up with superstar recruit Quin “The Eskimo” Blanding. DE Eli Harold is back and playing next to the top recruit out of high school, DT Andrew Brown, it could mean some serious pressure from the front line.
The Bad: No knock on players like Steve Greer, but it has been more than a decade since a solid across the line LB core, when Brooks and Parham terrorized quarterbacks. Coley and Romero are back, but look for a lot of rotational people to come in and see if something works.
The Unknown: How the rest of the secondary will shape up, including corners, nickel, and dime formations, is not known. There is plenty of talent there, but a lot of times last year they just looked lost in coverage. If they can get the schemes down, they could be an outstanding total package in the backfield. If not, teams will cue off of them like the later part of 2013.
8/30 vs UCLA: Another PAC-14 team comes into Charlottesville and with a Heisman contender in QB Brett Hundley. Their defense is as good as any in that league is a tough assignment for a Hoos team trying to work things out.
9/6 vs Richmond: Win or pack your bags London after the game. Plain and simple.
9/13 vs Louisville: Virginia new “natural rival” lost QB Teddy Bridgewater, but that should not make too much of a difference a few games into the season. There offense is outstanding and could rack up more than enough points than their defense will allow.
9/20 at BYU: Talk about a team with a chip on their shoulder. To lose to a 2-10 team after that crazy opener last season did not sit well with the Cougars, and now the return trip will have that solid defense ready to pounce quickly.
9/27 vs Kent State: Hopefully the Hoos got the right MAC team on the schedule this year. A 4-8 team from a year ago did not have a Big 5 win last year and one was against Liberty. Might be a game the Cavs could build on.
10/04 vs Pittsburgh: Another low scoring game will be in the books for this one as the Panther defense will be stout again this season and their offense is in as big as a flux as ours.
10/18 at Duke: Duke has been winning by scoring a ton of points and not giving up the deep ball. Virginia has not figured this out yet, and I don’t know if a trip to Durham will change that.
10/25 vs North Carolina: While the NCAA pressure off of them now, the Tar Heels can focus on football, which will be high flying passing attack and a swarming defense. This is another team we just can’t seem to beat.
11/01 at Georgia Tech: Remember the last time we went to Atlanta? I went to get a soda and it was 14-0. While this team is young, it is the triple option that is one of the hardest to stop.
11/08 at Florida State: Next. Moving on.
11/22 vs Miami: There is too much talent on this Hurricane team for them to roll over this late in the season. While Virginia has actually done very, very well under London against Miami, it will take another ’10 or ’12 vault-worthy game to get a W in this one.
11/28 at Virginia Tech: It’s Tech and it’s another year of avoiding friends and family at Thanksgiving.
Paper Wins (2): Richmond, Kent State
Paper Losses (8): UCLA, Louisville, Duke, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, FSU, Miami, Virginia Tech
Coin Flip (2): BYU, Pittsburgh
It will take a ton of breaks this year to just get to 4-8. Throw in a win we aren’t supposed to get with a loss we shouldn’t have and you end up….4-8. The over under is 3.5 in Vegas and they are spot on (as usual). It will fall on the offense this season to score not only on true possessions but turnovers as well. I wish I could be more optimistic, but it’s going to be a long season and anything close to .500 ball by the end of the season should be viewed as one of the greatest feats in UVa Football History.