Winter weather forecast for UVA football coming Sept. 15

We’ll know where the 2018 UVA football season is going by about 6:15 p.m. on Sept. 15.

The home game with Ohio U. should be over about that time. Don’t want to assume, but you have to, that the ‘Hoos beat Richmond Week 1. Week 2, UVA is at Indiana, picked sixth in the Big Ten East, but, hey, the Hoosiers won in Charlottesville a year ago.

Then, Ohio U., the preseason pick to win the MAC, and a team that football guru Phil Steele thinks might be able to run the table in 2018.

UVA will enter that one with a bit of a strategic disadvantage. By the time the teams meet for the opening kickoff at 3 p.m., Virginia will have already played two games, including one against a Big Ten opponent, while the Bobcats will have played just one, against FBS opponent Howard.

Which means, in terms of game tape to look at, Bronco Mendenhall and his staff won’t have much to go on, because you assume that Frank Solich and his guys will keep things as vanilla as possible, to not tip their hands in terms of game-planning.

Obviously, neither of those games is going to be easy for a Virginia team that is counting on its supposedly easy 2018 non-conference schedule to help it get back to bowl eligibility.

Indiana won five games in 2017, though the Hoosiers are unsettled at quarterback, with a competition featuring three guys, including a true freshman, Michael Penix, who is getting a lot of ink as a possible front-runner.

Then, Ohio U., which won nine games a year ago, and returns junior QB Nathan Rourke, who threw for 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns, and had 907 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground, which, yikes, though there are issues on defense that could rear their heads with the early-season matchup.

Going through the scenarios, OK, first, a UVA win at Indiana in Week 2. That should put the ‘Hoos at 2-0 heading into Ohio U. week, and a host of confidence, plus chatter about how things are really turning around under Mendenhall in Year 3.

Win the Ohio U. game, then, and you’re 3-0, halfway to a bowl, with a November game at home with Liberty all but guaranteeing you four wins, and, yeah, things are looking good in Charlottesville. For a week, anyway, heading into the ACC home opener with Louisville in Week 4, Wahoo Nation is dreaming of seven, eight, nine?

(We tend to go grandiose when we dream here in these parts.)

Lose the Indiana game, though, and the Ohio U. week turns into near-panic mode with Ohio U. next in the barrel.

Back-to-back losses leave you at 1-2, and even with Liberty down the line, it’s hard to find four ACC wins for a team that would have stumbled against Indiana and Ohio U.

Which means: you’re not going bowling, leaving the feeling that you’re taking a step back, putting big-time pressure on Mendenhall & Co. heading into Year 4.

Split the two, you need to win three in the ACC to get back to a cold-weather bowl, which is doable, but it’s going to be a slog getting there.

Is it another cold December for UVA football? Maybe a slightly warmer trip to the Mid-South? Holidays at home by the fire?

The weather forecast becomes clearer once we’re done with Ohio U.

Column by Chris Graham


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