UVA Football: 5 Reasons Mike London Locked Up ACC Coach of the Year

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst INovember 20, 2011

UVA Football: 5 Reasons Mike London Locked Up ACC Coach of the Year

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    This Thanksgiving weekend, Virginia will play Virginia Tech in a game where the winner is assured a spot in the ACC Championship in Charlotte, NC.

    Besides winning the Commonwealth Cup and potentially the ACC trophy, the conference's coach of the year title may be on the line as well this weekend in Charlottesville. However, the truth is that Virginia head coach Mike London has already made a strong statement in just his second year on the job and he should be given the honor.

    Let us look at just some of the major accomplishments by the Cavaliers this season—a season that has not only given the program hope but already surpassed nearly everyone's expectations entering this September.

ACC Turnaround

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    Life has been hard for Cavaliers fans since 2007.

    Last year, London's first on the job, Virginia won just one ACC game in an upset of Miami. In their other seven contests, Virginia lost by a combined score of 262-136.

    Virginia even lost to Duke for the third straight year in 2010.

    This time around, the Cavaliers are currently 5-2 and guaranteed their first winning season in conference for only the second time since 2004.

    They defeated Duke for the first time since 2007, Florida State for the first time since 2005 and could potentially break a seven-game losing to their archrivals from Blacksburg this weekend.

    Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson received plenty of praise for being the streak breaker for the Yellow Jackets, but Mike London is beginning to put up similar accomplishments at Virginia.

Finishing Strong in Florida

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    Here are the facts: before this season Virginia had won once in the state of Florida.

    This year, they have already won twice, beating both Florida State and Miami for the first time in program history.

    The Cavaliers took down the Hurricanes 28-21, beating them for the third time in the past four seasons, and they are coming off an amazing 14-13 victory over the Seminoles—their first victory in Tallahassee ever.

    In fact, four of Virginia's eight victories (Indiana, Maryland, Miami, Florida State) have come on the road.

    Virginia has only won four road games once since 1999.

    Many detractors will say that London's predecessor Al Groh had early success at Virginia as well, but it was Groh's inability to win on the road that ultimately hurt the program.

    Virginia has had to learn to win this season and winning on the road is a critical step towards becoming a contender.

Bowling

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    At the beginning of the season, who predicted that Virginia was going to a bowl?

    There are a few experts that definitely must be surprised to see their predictions go awry. Even yours truly could not muster more than six wins for the Cavaliers in a bit of wishful thinking.

    With every victory, the Cavaliers continue to improve their postseason stock and a ravenous fan base is ready to pounce on that city and try to end the year on a high note.

    A team that has won seven games combined in the previous two seasons now stands on the precipice of matching their highest win total this millennium.

    The Cavaliers needed this bowl desperately. They needed for the free publicity and credibility that comes with it. They also need the extra practices and camaraderie a bowl appearance brings.

    Virginia is in a bowl game for the first time since 2007 and have not won a bowl game since 2005; those numbers alone give London's coach of the year campaign credence in the ACC.

Growing Pains

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    Let's see: take twelve true freshman, a quarterback that has never started a college football game, an injured number two receiver and a team that was ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring defense last year.

    What do you get?

    A team that is vying for an ACC title.

    Coach Mike London had a talented team but a very young team across the board. This team had to learn to win and that became obvious early on this season.

    Against Indiana, Virginia gagged a 21-point lead before staging a dramatic comeback and surviving a must-win contest on the road.

    Against Idaho, Virginia sputtered on offense and needed overtime to escape with a one-point victory.

    The Cavaliers could not hold onto the momentum of knocking off previously undefeated Georgia Tech by losing at home to North Carolina State.

    Virginia definitely had some low points this season, but the victory at Miami has catapulted their confidence and their game. 

    Now the boys in blue and orange have won five of their last games and are making plays when they need to.

    Whether it was Chase Minnifield's shoestring tackle to save a touchdown against Florida State or Perry Jones being able to escape the Maryland defense twice on a 4th-and-goal, Virginia is finding a way to win.

    Last year, Virginia was sixth in rushing offense and 10th in total defense in the ACC.

    This year, Virginia is third in both categories and look to be improving by the minute.

    In just year two of London's tenure, the Cavaliers have an identity and are having success with it.

The Other Contenders?

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    Where is the real competition for Mike London at this point?

    Clemson's Dabo Swinney looked like a lock earlier in the season, especially when he took down the Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg.

    However, two bad losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State make it appear as if the Tigers are reeling at the worst time. This was a scenario many had envisioned or feared and playing into a stereotype will not help him with the voters.

    If Clemson loses to South Carolina next week, they will have lost three of their last four, the lone victory being a three-point last-second win at home against Wake Forest.

    That probably would keep Swinney's chances pretty low.

    The only other contender is Frank Beamer, but let's be honest, the Hokies were expected to be in this position.

    Granted, Beamer has done a great job dealing with injuries on defense and putting in a new quarterback Logan Thomas. However, the Hokies winning the ACC is nothing new. Their competition is what is new.

    The winner of this weekend's game will undoubtedly be honored with ACC Coach of the Year but it should not have to come down to that. Coach London has installed a system in two years that has put them ahead of schedule and hanging on to a belief of what could be.

    Virginia's turnaround is remarkable and deserves recognition. If the Cavaliers play their cards right, they could be bringing in more than a Coach of the Year trophy in the next few weeks.

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