ACC Football: Virginia Cavaliers Season Predictions (Part 1)
Well as training camps officially start around college campuses and hope springs eternal.
Of course, for UVA football, there was far more hope before arrests and suspensions left more questions than answers heading into 2008.
However, I will now do my best to break down some of these games and look like a complete idiot when I am wrong.
GAME 1: vs. USC: Hello America.
SET-UP: This will be one of the biggest audiences to watch a UVA game in quite some time. Scott Stadium will be in the spotlight, for better or worse.
I hope fans will bring a great deal of energy and support for I know many expect this game to get ugly fast. Even with a USC offense that has 4 returning starters I do not see much chance for Virginia to pull the huge upset.
PREDICTION: I think Virginia will keep it close in the first half for they are clearly a different team at home than on the road, but they have no real match for the speed of the Trojans. Vic Hall is a good corner, but not against the tall and athletic wide receivers that Sanchez will be looking for.
With a completely new defensive line it will be some time before Virginia can get pressure on the QB and so the Cavaliers will have to "fight on" to look for their first victory down the road.
RESULT: USC 38 UVA 17
GAME 2: vs. Richmond. Welcome Back Coach London.
SET-UP: Mike London helped bolster a Virginia defense that Al Golden left when he went to go coach at Temple (how's that working out?).
London left this January to return to his alma mater, one of the better D-II teams (or whatever they're called) in the country.
Richmond has given Virginia coach Al Groh fits in the past, including a 17-16 nail-biter the last time the Spiders came to Charlottesville in Groh's first year at the helm.
PREDICTION: The Spider offense is centered around their running game with returning QB Eric Ward only averaging less than 170 yards from the air last season.
Virginia has done well historically against the run and I think the linebacking corps of Jon Copper and Sintim should shut down Richmond enough for Virginia's own running back tandem of Mikell Simpson and Cedric Peerman to gut out a too close for comfort game.
RESULT: UVA 24 Richmond 17
GAME 3: @ UConn. Road Warriors?
SET-UP: Allow me to show you the following records: 1-5, 2-4, 1-4, 3-2, 1-4, 1-5, 4-2.
No that's not Duke's ACC record, but it is Virginia's road record every season under Coach Groh.
Just last year the Cavaliers were humiliated by Wyoming, needed a final minute mini-miracle against Middle Tennessee State and gave N.C. State their lone ACC win.
PREDICTION: Now add all that up with a team that you beat by one last year at home and things do not look that great for the Cavaliers.
The Huskies undoing last year was a shocking 1 of 13 on third down. With senior quarterback Tyler Lorenzen and junior running back Andre Dixon (who averaged 4.5 yards per carry last game) back for another crack I think the Huskies will be too much.
On the other hand, I think Virginia will surprise people and make this a very close game. I predict QB Pete Lalich will probably struggle to get the offense moving very much in his first road start.
Still, the Cavaliers have a tendency to put up a good fight when people count them out but (despite the problems on offense) I simply think it will be a case of not being able to get that critical stop at the end of the game.
RESULT: UConn 20 UVA 13
GAME 4: @ Duke. They Can't Really Be Worse Than Duke...Right?
SET-UP: So every summer I go to Myrtle Beach to play golf and have a good vacation. When I was driving back up to Virginia I saw a billboard for Duke football. Apparently you can get tickets for three games for 55 dollars.
Let that sink in...okay.
Duke football is bad but Ted Roof certainly did not help. Duke looked to be on an upswing before Roof arrived and brought the house down (okay, I'll stop with the puns). While Duke has not won many games they have certainly done a better job of keeping the game close.
Look no further than their 24-13 loss at Virginia last year. However, three errant special teams plays kept Duke in the game, including an embarrassing safety that made long snapper Danny Aiken a household name in Charlottesville (typically not a good thing).
PREDICTION: I know a lot of people think Duke will be a surprise team. They have a fair amount of talent on both sides of the ball and now some experience to match. I know people think we will finish below Duke but Groh has never lost to Duke.
Virginia has also never failed to scorer fewer than 24 points against Duke since Groh took over and I think the Cavalier defense will be more than enough to let that number hold up.
Maybe next year Blue Devils.
RESULT: UVA 28 Duke 17
That leaves Virginia at 2-2 coming out of September.
Hopefully, by this point, the Cavaliers have begun to gel on the offensive line and WR Kevin Ogletree has kept the passing game at least an option to keep things from becoming too stagnant.
Next time we will go through October and see if Virginia can jump start their season against Maryland like they did last year.
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