September 25, 2014

2-2... 4-2

Our next two games are at home, the first this weekend against super-shitty Kent State, a team that a crappy Ohio State team boat-raced to the tune of a 66-0 final score.  The Buckeyes piled up 628 total yards of offense and held the Golden Flashes to 126.  Of course, Kent State has had a bye week to prepare for UVA, and remember, we've had specific trouble with the MAC in recent seasons.

All of that being said, I think it's a very safe bet that Virginia wins this game and gets to 3-2 on the season.  If you skipped the link I just provided, the consensus line is Virginia (-26.5).  That's a big line, bettors.

Cool uni, though

Anyway, we beat Kent State going away.  Then we get to what - in my opinion - is the most pivotal game of the season, and thus, in Mike London's coaching career -- the October 4 night game against Pittsburgh.  We'll get to that in more detail next week, but for now, know: that Pitt game is a big fat *MUST WIN* if Mike London wants to get to 6+ wins on the season.

As we already established, London needs at least a 6-6 season and a bowl game in order to retain his job.

I'm trying to stick to the good win / sinful loss plus-minus scoreboard I outlined last week.  The BYU loss was neither a good win nor a sinful loss, so London still sits at minus-5 for his UVA career.  Get to a plus-minus of 0 for me to buy back in, Coach.

Aside from the plus-minus, I simply need 8-4 or 8-5 this season to buy back in.  8 wins this season, or a few seasons of 6- or 7-win football back-to-back-to-back.  I'm trying really hard to not be a stick in the mud about this, but I stand by my belief that no coach should be able to survive a 2-10 season at a power conference school that fancies itself a player on the national scene.

The BYU loss wasn't a bad loss, but it was still a loss.  And while the kool-aid crowd will say "we're a pair of close 8-point losses away from being 4-0 right now," I'd counter with "we're a lucky-ass Louisville muffed punt away from being 1-3."  The line, it is razor thin.

So we beat Kent State, and then find a way against Pitt, and we're 4-2 with bowl eligibility in the crosshairs*.

Saturday's game against the Flashes should be fun.  I suspect we'll see all three of the running backs get up to around 100 yards, and Daniel Hamm might get some burn too.

Anyway, in my meandering thoughtwave diatribe, I've maneuvered myself to thinking about 2015.  If we're able to maintain this 2011 New York Giants thing and parlay it into the 6+ wins London needs to keep his job, do things look brighter for next year?  Will he have a chance to build on modest success this season?  Riffing off of the depth chart for Kent State and the Official Football Roster and the cumulative season stats, and assuming no attrition, a quick position-by-position look...

Quarterback -- Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are both back, and Turtle will be coming off of his redshirt season.  For the first time in London's tenure at UVA, we *should* be in good shape at this spot.

Running Back -- KP and Khalek Shepherd will both be gone, and this will be Smoke's backfield.  I think that [currently redshirting] Jordan Ellis will play a role, and of course, Daniel Hamm.  CWR should continue to be a mainstay at fullback, and should continue to improve with all of the on-field experience he's getting.  Still, RB has to be considered a question mark for 2015... at least until Mizzell begins to prove himself as a potential star (3.4 yards per carry so far this season is far from dazzling).

Wide Receiver -- We lose Miles Gooch and Darius Jennings, but Severin, Levrone, Keeon Johnson, Doni Dowling, and Dockins are back, along with big-time talent Jamil Kamara.  I like the continued upside of this group, despite the lack of a legit downfield burner.

Tight End -- Ugh, bare cupboard here.  Rob Burns, [current redshirt] Evan Butts, and some true freshmen.  Look for a lot of 3- and 4-wide sets, and further minimization of the tight end position at UVA.  Lacking an in-line blocker at this position kind of limits our potential as a pro-style power running outfit.

Offensive Line -- All of the current starters (other than middling RG Conner Davis) are back, Whitmire should return from injury, hopefully Adeosun too, and some young talent will hopefully be ready to play.  The OL hasn't been good this season, but it also hasn't been the unmitigated disaster I predicted... so I'm reasonably optimistic that it'll continue to improve and gel and give us a potential bright spot in 2015.

Defensive End -- Unless Eli Harold gets froggy and decides to test the waters of the NFL, everyone will be back.  And a year older.  And a year stronger.  And a year more seasoned.  And a year better.  Excited about this unit.

Defensive Tackle -- Everyone is back, and Andrew Brown should be ready for a bigger role.  Boner.

Linebacker -- Big losses here.  Henry Coley and DaDa Romero are adios.  Valles is back (which counts more at DE than anything), and there are some nice-looking young guys being groomed.  Still, it'll be difficult to replace our best player (Coley) and one of our top-five players (Romero).

Safety -- We lose Anthony Harris, which is a big loss.  Quin Blanding is back, and should be ready to step into a starring role.  I happen to think that Kelvin Rainey will be ready to step right in at that other safety spot and produce good results.  So I think this unit will take a small step back, but still be pretty good.

Cornerback -- Tra Nicholson will be gone, unless we squeeze a medical redshirt out of this situation, which seems unlikely.  Brandon Phelps and DreQuan Hoskey will also be gone.  So that's a lot of loss.  Maurice Canady will be back as the headliner, and Divante Walker and Tim Harris should be ready for increased roles.  I'm most interested to see what the influx of young talent can offer us at corner -- Kirk Garner and Darious Latimore will be needed.

Kicker/Punter -- Ouch, we lose Voz.  But Frye is back, as is long-snapper Tyler Shirley and holder Matt Johns.  So we'll have to replace an All-ACC candidate at punter.  Nick Conte, step on up.  Oh, and Dylan Sims should continue to be an excellent kickoff specialist.

Add It Up -- We'll be better at QB, OL, DE, and DT, worse at RB, LB, and CB, wash at WR, TE, S, K/P.  Sum of parts, I think improved quarterbacking coupled with improved play on the lines spells a more successful team.  The 2015 OOC schedule is a monster --- @ UCLA, Notre Dame, and Boise State (plus William & Mary).  The ACC schedule gets a lot lighter --- we trade F$U for Syracuse, which is a significant downshift.  I'd say 6-6, 7-5, or even 8-4 is possible, given our returning talent and the schedule we'll face.

On the Calendar -- Greyson Lambert, Smoke Mizzell, Max Valles, Eli Harold

In the NFL -- Henry Coley, Anthony Harris

2-2 now, six wins in the crosshairs...

  • Kent State -- win, 3-2
  • Pitt -- pivotal game, has to be a win, 4-2
  • BYE
  • @ Duke -- we have 2 weeks to prepare, they're coming off a game against GT's wishbone, win, 5-2
  • UNC -- if we're on a 3-game win streak, momentum carries us to another W, 6-2
  • @ GT -- tricky road game, call it a loss, 6-3
  • @ F$U -- loss, 6-4
  • Miami -- no momentum, but London is good at beating Miami... still, a loss against superior talent, 6-5
  • @ VT -- it's a win, Hoofans, it's a win, 7-5


  1. So say we go 7-5 this year, and then win our bowl game. Would you still want us to fire London at the end of the year? I don't know my own answer to this question - I'm just wanting your feedback.

    It just seems difficult to think about starting all over when there is still a chance that we could become consistently good (7-8 wins per year) under this coaching staff. Maybe I'm wrong to think this way...

    1. I have three thresholds for the "buy back:"

      1) Win 8+ games this season. 7-5 plus a win in a bowl game would add up to 8 wins.

      2) Win 6 or 7 games for three consecutive years. That would show me that we're at least plateauing at an acceptable level of competitiveness.

      3) Get to 0 or into the positive on the plus-minus scale I introduced a couple of weeks ago.

  2. I think this is an interesting question. At what point do we change the narrative of the season from Mike London keeping his job to how well can we end up doing this year. My guess is that takes place once we secure a bowl game. Looking at the schedule though there are no games where we are clearly outmatched with the exception of Florida State.

    I hate to keep this going, but this game Saturday is one of the biggest of the Mike London era. However I'm saving the title of #1 for the Tech game at the end of the year.

    1. Great point. The narrative of the season seems to have shifted from London trying to save his job to the fans being so horrible that we're only putting 35K butts in seats... which really pisses me off. One lucky win over a not-as-good-as-we-thought L'Ville team is not enough to win back these long-suffering fans, nor should it be. Go to a bowl game. Go to a bowl game in three consecutive seasons. Then lambast the fans for not supporting the program. Or hey, here's a novel idea -- LOWER THE FUCKING TICKET PRICES.

      I think this year's team is good enough to win 8+ games and challenge for the top spot in the [very ordinary] Coastal. Is the coaching good enough? Proof will be in the pudding.