Home Where do we realistically put the over/under for UVA Football going into 2023?

Where do we realistically put the over/under for UVA Football going into 2023?

tony elliott
Photo: UVA Athletics

Athlon and On3 peg Virginia 14th, dead last, in the 2023 ACC Football race.

Phil Steele and the ESPN Football Power Index have Virginia at 13th, just ahead of Georgia Tech (Phil Steele) and Boston College (FPI).

247Sports is the outlier, saying the ‘Hoos worst-case scenario is 4-8 overall, 2-6 in the ACC, with a best-case at 6-6, 4-4.

Wow, 4-8 as worst-case? 6-6 as even doable?

We’re going to need some of that 247Sports optimism going into the fall.

My thinking is a 4-8 finish would actually be a springboard for second-year coach Tony Elliott, who was hired by AD Carla Williams to tear down what he’d inherited from his predecessor, Bronco Mendenhall, who had led Virginia to a pair of .500 finishes after leading the program to the Orange Bowl in 2019.

The teardown began with an awkward 3-7 finish in 2022. I call it awkward because Elliott managed to re-recruit the skill guys from the record-setting Air Raid offense that he’d inherited from Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae, then tried to plug them into his pro-style offense, with disastrous results.

The 2021 UVA offense ranked first in the ACC and third nationally in total offense, averaging 514.4 yards per game; the 2022 unit, with QB Brennan Armstrong and his top receivers, Keytaon Thompson, Dontayvion Wicks, Billy Kemp and Lavel Davis, all back, could only manage 344.4 yards per game in total offense.

All of those guys are gone – Davis, tragically, was one of the three members of the football program shot and killed on Nov. 13; the mass shooting led to the early end to the UVA season, with the athletics department cancelling the team’s final two scheduled games.

The QB that will replace Armstrong, who left via the transfer portal for NC State, where he will reunite with Anae, will come from among Tony Muskett, a two-star recruit from Monmouth, a mid-tier FCS program, and Jay Woolfolk, who is busy this summer playing baseball for Team USA.

The offensive line will have to, again, as was the case last year, replace four starters, with a makeshift group cobbled together from the guys left over from the Mendenhall era and the transfer portal.

The defense, which was actually solid in 2022, ranking a respectable seventh in the ACC in total defense (357.6 yards per game), should see more in the way of improvement in Year 2 under defensive coordinator John Rudzinski.

It would help if the offense could actually sustain more drives. A big issue for the D last season was fatigue from having to run back out there after failed third downs – the UVA offense ranked 12th in the ACC and 117th nationally in third-down conversions (32.1 percent).

The schedule doesn’t help in terms of giving Virginia hope for a good start out of the gate. The Cavaliers open in Nashville against Tennessee, then return home to host James Madison, which went 8-3 in 2022, the first year for JMU Football at the FBS level.

Then it’s a Friday night in College Park against former ACC rival Maryland, and a second-straight Friday night, on Sept. 22, back at home, against NC State, with Armstrong and Anae looking to let out some frustrations at the way things went down after Mendenhall was forced out.

The best-case there, my view, is a 1-3 start, ahead of the Sept. 30 game at Boston College, which becomes a must-win before the calendar flips to October.

The ESPN Football Power Index only has Virginia as the favorite in three of its 2023 games – the home games with JMU, William & Mary and Georgia Tech.

I’d look at 3-9 as the sort of over/under line for UVA in 2023.

The road game at Boston College is doable; maybe, maybe, the game at Maryland.

On the flip, I wouldn’t count JMU, W&M or Georgia Tech as gimmes for this team, not with all the uncertainty on offense.

I’m still scratching my head over 247Sports saying 4-8 is worst-case and 6-6 is at all doable for Elliott in Year 2.

I’m thinking 6-6 gets Elliott a statue in front of Scott Stadium before the 2024 home opener, personally.

Chris Graham

Chris Graham

Chris Graham, the king of "fringe media," is the founder and editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1994 alum of the University of Virginia, Chris is the author and co-author of seven books, including Poverty of Imagination, a memoir published in 2019, and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For his commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to his YouTube page, or subscribe to his Street Knowledge podcast. Email Chris at [email protected].