The Virginia Cavaliers are on the precipice of doing something they have not done since 2007: go to a bowl game.
From the beginning of the season, Virginia has had the goal of making it to postseason play. It was the next step in a logical progression for a team that finished 4-8 in head coach Mike London's first year with the Cavaliers.
This season has had some ups and downs to be sure. The Cavaliers looked strong to begin the season and then faced some major bumps on the road when dealing with a quarterback carousel between Michael Rocco and David Watford.
Virginia needed overtime to beat the Idaho Vandals at home, but also beat Georgia Tech and Miami in critical ACC matchups.
The Cavaliers have proven they can win an upset game here or there, but they need to find the consistency of good programs. Hopefully the decision to stick with Rocco under center can help bring the stability necessary to move the program forward.
As chaotic as this season has been, somehow Virginia actually controls its destiny in the ACC Coastal Division. Now winning an ACC title seems extremely remote, but their goal is just one win away.
Standing in their path: the Maryland Terrapins—a team that has fallen to 2-6 and look ripe for the picking.
The Cavaliers know a thing or two about letdown games. After knocking off then-No. 12 Georgia Tech, Virginia fell flat on its face at home against North Carolina State.
With a similarly remarkable game against Miami, Virginia cannot afford to make another mistake in back-to-back weeks. Indeed, losing to the Wolfpack was frustrating but losing to Maryland is inexcusable.
First of all, the Terrapins are a rival. If the Virginia Cavaliers want to reach respectability again, they need to recruit the D.C., Maryland area. That means they have to win games in this rivalry.
Second, Maryland has fallen apart. They have yet to win a game since defeating Towson on September 24th and have only one other win against a depleted Miami team to their credit.
In an embarrassing fashion, Maryland was run over by a seemingly inept Boston College team last weekend. A team that looked to be the worst in the ACC ran over the Terrapins for 372 yards.
That is why Virginia simply cannot stomach a loss this weekend. The Cavaliers have one of the best rushing attacks in the country with Kevin Parks, Clifton Richardson and "Mr. Everything" Perry Jones.
Maryland, by comparison, is 118th out of 120 teams in rush defense.
If the Cavaliers have any shred of respect, they must win this game. They cannot put all their hopes of a bowl on a Duke game that has haunted Virginia in past years.
The Terrapin players are downright mutinous against their first-year head coach Randy Edsall, they have no stability at quarterback and their fans will be booing before the ball is ever snapped.
Virginia cannot afford to give Maryland new life and it certainly cannot deflate a fanbase that wants to believe their team has turned a corner.
The Cavaliers have a mission on Saturday, one they simply must accept. Otherwise, Coach London and every player will have to answer for their team's inconsistency.
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