Marquee games put pressure on UVA football early

uva-logo-new2If you’re UVA football, and you’re on a nine-game losing streak, and your coach is on the hot seat, and you’ve got road trips to BYU, Florida State and Virginia Tech to look forward to, maybe you want to start the season with a layup, to huild some confidence.

UCLA is no layup.

“Some people have them as #1, no lower than 10,” said UVA coach Mike London, assessing the murderer’s row schedule that he has been handed in what is clearly a make-or-break year for his administration.

The good news is that five of the first six games on the schedule are at home. The bad news is that the season opens with UCLA, then in Week 3 brings in Louisville, with the Week 4 trip to BYU preceding home tilts with Kent State and Pitt.

Even Week 2 with FCS in-state rival Richmond won’t be a gimme, by any stretch, not for a team that finished 2-10 in 2013.

“It is a challenging schedule, but it’s the schedule that’s here,” London said. “The object and the goal right now is to embrace the fact that we’re going to play these teams this year. So coming out of the season, winter workouts, going into spring practice, we knew who we were going to play, who we had to play, all those things. That’s been sort of the rallying cry for this team, which is that we’re going to play one of the best schedules in college football, and right, wrong or indifferent, it is what it is.”

Senior tailback Kevin Parks, the ACC’s leading returning rusher from 2013, said he and his teammates are looking forward to the opportunity created by the tough schedule to rise to the challenge.

“Our team is very excited. We get on the field against UCLA, a big game for us, of course, an ESPN game. A good way to showcase our talents on national television. I feel like everybody’s excited. They’re ready to get back to playing,” Parks said.

Senior safety Anthony Harris, who is on the watch lists for practically every major college defensive award in the preseason, is also ready for the challenges up ahead.

“When you’ve got a team that’s coming in possibly Top 10 in the preseason rankings, you get extra excited,” Harris said. “It makes you want to play your best when you have those kinds of opportunities so you can show what you can do. Playing teams like UCLA and Louisville early in the season definitely gets you excited.”

– Column by Chris Graham

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