Can UVA football get back to six (or beyond)?

uva footballScanning the ‘Net the past couple of days, I’m seeing some surprising love for UVA football heading into the 2018 season, in terms of expectations, which haven’t been there for how long now?

Seems the consensus is that the ‘Hoos have a solid shot of getting back to at least six wins, thus going bowling again for a second straight season.

The key: the weak schedule

Putting it bluntly, the schedule is almost embarrassingly weak, but that’s OK, considering. I’d think you’d want an easy schedule early in a rebuild, as opposed to the Murderer’s Row schedules that Mike London found himself faced with in his tenure.

Go easy early, get some wins, build some momentum, haul in some recruits, rinse, repeat.

But, yeah, easy. Should be able to count on wins over Richmond (we remember the last time they came to Charlottesville, of course) and Ohio U. early on. At Indiana in Week 2, yeah, the Hoosiers won in Scott Stadium last September, but they finished 5-7, so there’s a chance there.

Louisville at home on Sept. 22: no Lamar Jackson, and for some reason, Virginia has played the Cardinals well in recent years.

At N.C. State on Sept. 29: go ahead and hang the big, fat L on the ledger.

Heading into the bye, then, I’m seeing 3-2 as the most likely outcome. There’s a chance Virginia shocks the world against Louisville. Hey, almost happened, should have happened, two years ago, when UL had Jackson on the way to the Heisman.

Coming back from the bye, you get Miami at home. Depends on which Miami you get – the one that can pound Notre Dame, or the one that gave Virginia a big lead before rallying, limped to wins over Georgia Tech and UNC, and lost to Pitt in the regular-season finale.

Then it’s at Duke, and home against UNC, Pitt and Liberty. Here’s the chance to build some momentum. All four are winnable games. Take three of the four, and the ‘Hoos are already at six heading into the final two weeks.

Which would be good advice. The last two are at the Techs – Georgia Tech on Nov. 17, Virginia Tech on Nov. 23.

Assumptions

  • The new starting quarterback, Bryce Perkins, is better-suited to Robert Anae’s up-tempo spread offense than his predecessor, Kurt Benkert, who is more a traditional dropback passer. Perkins can get respect from defensive ends on the read-option that Benkert never could, which will be a big boost to the running game, and he can extend plays under pressure, a hand up to the passing game.
  • He will need to get better offensive line play than Benkert had in front of him. Depth was an issue in 2017, particularly in the second half of the season, when the line was so banged up that Anae was forced to game-plan ultraconservatively just hoping to keep Benkert on the field. The line is young: one true freshman, three redshirt freshmen, four sophomores, two junior, but bigger and presumably stronger than last year’s group.
  • The defense loses All-Americans Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding, and disruptive defensive tackle Andrew Brown. But there’s a lot of talent back, with the focus on speed and big hitters. Expect to see Bryce Hall, Jordan Mack and Brenton Nelson step up to fill the leadership void.

Column by Chris Graham

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