September 28, 2015

Boise 56, Virginia 14

After an unbelievably embarrassing pre-game speech, it was a complete and comprehensive beat-down on our home field in front of a national television audience.  I have nothing left to say, no optimism for 2015.

This blog will now be devoted to the coaching search.

September 25, 2015

The Path Forward for Mike London

Look, you have to understand that I was ready to see Virginia move on from Mike London after the 2013 season.  (Really, I wanted to see us fire him after the Ball State loss on October 5, 2013, in which the team very clearly quit in the second half of a game they could have and should have won, but that's neither here nor there.)

It was inappropriate for Virginia to bring London back for the 2014 season.

It was downright negligent to bring him back for 2015.

Yet here he is, still "coaching" the Virginia football team.

But look, as done with him as I am (and you know, I'm really done), there is a path forward for Mike London; a way for him to save his job and begin the long, arduous process of winning back lost fans and supporters.

That path forward, I believe, MUST begin with a win over Boise State tonight.

I say that, because the path forward has to entail a bowl game this season, bare minimum.  Virginia isn't going to go 5-3 in the ACC, just isn't going to happen.  4-4 is the most optimistic I'm willing to be, and it's at least somewhat realistic given the fact that we finally have an actual quarterback.

So a win tonight, under the lights, to get to 2-2... and then it's a long bye week, a chance to completely reconfigure the offense from the so-called "power running" format into a spread-style look built around gunslinging Matt Johns, the top-shelf receiving talent of Canaan Severin and T.J. Thorpe, and the unique skills of tailback/slotback Taquan Mizzell, zippy freshman receiver David Eldridge, and electric freshman tailback/receiver Olamide Zaccheaus.

Win tonight, gel things during the bye week, go 4-4 in ACC play, get to - and win - a shitty bowl game, get to the offseason and shit-can Steve Fairchild (and replace him with Chris Beatty) and Larry Lewis... and... who knows?  Maybe this is some sort of workable Frankenstein's Monster of a coaching staff that can shamble forward.

(Of course, we also need to find a pass rush if we want 2015 to end with a winning record, but that's a topic for another day.)

Anyway, tonight is a big game.  Boise isn't the best matchup for us.  They have made a living winning this kind of game against power conference teams.  I'm scared of what their offense will do to our defense, just like I was scared of Notre Dame continuing to run the ball in the second half.  We do have the better quarterback in the matchup, we're playing at home, under the lights, and I like how our DBs match up with their receivers (but we gotta have a pass rush for that to matter).

Heart says we can win, head says naw.  Vegas says Boise -2.5, and that seems fair, almost generous.

Anyway, it's a big night game, nationally televised, and it's going to be fun.

Go Hoos.

September 22, 2015

Spread to Win

Decided to take a quick look at Matt Johns' stats through three games...

64-for-96 (66.6 completion %), 790 yards (263.3 / game), 6 touchdowns against 3 interceptions. Also, 41 yards rushing and a touchdown against one lost fumble. Been sacked just three times, as well. All this against the UCLA and Notre Dame (and William & Mary, womp womp) defenses.

Dude, this "power running" business has to go. Put the ball in Matty-J's hands, open up the playbook, and let's see what happens. Thorpe is back, our best tailback is at his best working the slot, Canaan Severin is a bonafide star, the two freshman receivers have displayed some explosive playmaking ability, and we even have a tight end who seems to be able to catch. Oh, and our suspect o-line is much better in pass pro than in run blocking.


Our best QB since Biscuit.

September 21, 2015

Virginia 35, William & Mary 29

When a win feels like a loss and a loss would have felt like more of a win.

Boise State on Friday night.

September 14, 2015

Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27

Go ahead and Mark me down as: a) impressed with Saturday's effort, b) pissed that we don't get that kind of effort for every game, and c) unmoved by moral victories.

A few thoughts...

Matt Johns is legit.

So is Canaan Severin... although I'm pissed that he's already a senior after playing as a true freshman in 2012 so he could: Appeared in all 12 games for Virginia ... made collegiate debut versus Richmond ... caught first career reception for three yards at Georgia Tech ... finished season with one catch ... appeared on special teams for 85 plays ... one of 17 different Cavaliers to make at least one reception in 2012.

It's looking like this Olamide Zaccheaus kid might just be a player.  I'm excited about what I saw out of him.

Our o-line had a pretty good day.  It's clear that they are better at steering defenders than they are at blocking them, which is why this should be a quick passing / perimeter running offense, not the "power running" horseshit the coaching staff was derping about prior to the season.

Mike Moore is not very good.

The defense, in general, appears to be a problem this season.  That run-stopping was atrocious.

William & Mary is up next.  While a part of me would enjoy the absolute clarity a loss would provide, I'll happily take a win that could settle the team and the fanbase for the midseason grind.  Assuming a win over the Tribe, it sets up a huge Friday night game against a not-as-good-as-they-usually-are Boise State team.  It's a very winnable game, especially if we get the same sort of effort and playcalling we got against the Irish.

Here's how I see this thing playing out.

W&M - win
Boise - win

Then comes a bye week, when the line will be drawn in the sand.  On one side, the pollyannas and the Mike London sycophants.  On the other, the realists and the pessimists masquerading as realists.

@ Pitt - loss
Syracuse - win

Sitting at 3-3, it's another crossroads moment.  How will the team finish out the season?

@ UNC - loss
GT - loss
@ Miami - loss
@ Louisville - loss
Duke - loss
VT - loss

By losing out, of course!  Maybe there's a crazy win against Miami in there, but I'm guessing not.

And December brings a coaching change and the rebirth of hope.  I'm excited for that.

September 11, 2015

I'm Not Thinking About Notre Dame

We play Notre Dame tomorrow.  All anyone can talk about right now is the stupid white frosted helmets.  Nobody is even considering the opportunity we have to shock the world tomorrow afternoon.

I'm not considering it, either.  Maybe if we had an offense.  Maybe if we had a pass rush.  Maybe if our "power running game" had an o-line that could generate any sort of push up the middle (note: a former walk-on is our starting center in Year Six of this coaching regime).  Maybe if our "power running game" had someone other than a 185-pound slot receiver as the ballcarrying centerpiece.  Maybe if our wide receivers could get any sort of separation, if our wily playmaking gunslinging quarterback were allowed to be wily, make plays, and sling guns, maybe maybe maybe maybe maybe.  Maybe if we had a real coaching staff.

But we don't, so we won't.  We won't realize the opportunity to shock the world, I mean.  Notre Dame is going to roll in here and trounce us.  And Hoofans drift a little closer to seeing the football program sink beneath the waves of apathy.

For me, the idea that we'll be hiring a new head coach in December is what keeps me tethered to sanity.

Here's this article, if you missed it:

Hot, Cold, On the Move: A Comprehensive Look at the Coaching Job Market

Read the fucking article if you haven't already.

Okay, let's break this thing down right quick.

  • Miami 
  • Syracuse 
  • Virginia 
  • Iowa State 
  • Illinois (already open!)
  • Purdue 
  • Rutgers 
  • USC 
  • Utah 
  • Washington State

From the Thamel article, I disagree with his takes that the following might open up:
  • Virginia Tech: They can't/won't force Beamer out before he's ready to retire, and I'm certain he wants to coach that crazy Bristol Motor Speedway game against Tennessee. (Coaching football in a NASCAR venue feels like the pinnacle for Beamer's career, doesn't it?)  In a related note, I bet those derps have a tee-shirt to celebrate the football game at a NASCAR track.
Yep, of course.
  • North Carolina: Fedora gets at least one more year, I think.  If not, then Chizik simply takes over.
  • Florida State: Too much buyout, too easy a path to the playoffs.  I honestly don't think there's a better job in college football.  Why would Jimbo Fisher leave?
  • West Virginia: I think Holgorsen has finally found some traction in the Big XII.  That said, West Virginia is nearly impossible to predict.  This will be a situation to watch closely, as the 'Eers present a more attractive coaching job than Virginia.  Good God, that hurt to type.
  • Oklahoma: At this point, Stoops and the Sooners are stuck with each other. 
  • Iowa: The Ferentz buyout is waaaaay too big. 
  • Maryland: Edsall has them playing pretty good football, all things considered. 
  • Arizona: Why would RichRod leave? 
  • Vanderbilt: It's way too early to fire Derek Mason.  You tasted a little bit of recent success, but, I mean, c'mon.  You're still Vanderbilt.  You don't get to shitcan coaches after two seasons, bros.
  • South Carolina: Spurrier's not ready to retire... yet.  But we'll see.  This is another one to watch very closely.
  • LSU: C'mon man, Les Miles isn't going anywhere.  Right?  I don't know, LSU fans might be getting pretty antsy given their recent string (three years with at least three losses).  They have huge expectations.
  • Georgia: They'd be crazy to fire Richt, but I understand the fatigue in that fanbase.  Greyson Lambert is their starting quarterback right now, and Lambert is softer than 5-ply Charmin.  He's a wad of cookie dough.  Greyson Lambert is Norweigan pillow soft.  He's saltwater taffy you left in a hot car.  He's newborn baby ass.  He's the cotton side of the Q-Tip factory.  He's Hubba Bubba.  He's Louisiana Delta siltflow.  He's the Stay Puft marshmallow man after the streams are crossed.  He's the lovechild of Wham and Air Supply.  He's kitty cat bellies.  So, yeah, maybe Ricky Richt is on shaky stilts.  I can buy that.
  • Notre Dame: I can't see the NFL tapping Brian Kelly in 2015.

So by my count, there will be ~10 Power 5 openings at the end of the season, which is right in line with the five-year average of 11 vacancies (8 in 2014, 7 in 2013, 13 in 2012, 14 in 2011, 13 in 2010.)

Using the ten I laid out, here's my take on how those jobs stack up in terms of being able to attract candidates:

~~~ tier 1 ~~~
#1 USC
~~~ tier 2 ~~~
#2 Miami
~~~ tier 3 ~~~
#3 Utah
#4 Virginia
#5 Rutgers
#6 Purdue
~~~ tier 4 ~~~
#7 Illinois
#8 Iowa State
#9 Syracuse
#10 Washington State

We're getting lucky in that there are mostly only SHITTY Power 5 jobs opening up at the end of this season.

Of course, there will be openings we don't currently anticipate... like if Jim Mora Jr., Kevin Sumlin, and/or David Shaw get NFL gigs. Openings at UCLA, Texas A&M, and/or Stanford would [obviously] bump Virginia down the list.

Okay, so let's be conservative and call it 12 openings. Hell, let's call it 15 openings just for gits and shiggles. The season is young, crazy things could happen in the next 14 weeks. (I don't, however, think 23 P5 jobs will open up, as Thamel listed in his "HOT" and "WORTH MONITORING" sections. The 12 he listed as "HOT" seems like a plausible number, and with past as prologue, the number fits.)

Thamel listed 40 total coaches as "movin' on up," "making the jump," and "next level." Three of the 40 (Bielema, Dykes, RichRod) are current P5 head coaches, so if they move up, it'd open a lower tier P5 job. I'm not going to mention those guys for the UVA job, because it'd simply never happen. Rich Rodriguez, for example, would never make the lateral move from Arizona to Virginia (or Virginia Tech). Furthermore, Bronco Mendenhall won't leave near-P5 BYU to make a lateral move.

Anyway, of the remaining 36 coaches, here are the 15 I think are most likely to land P5 jobs during the December 2015 coaching carousel, ranked in the order of likelihood: 

#1 Mark Hudspeth
#2 Ed Warinner
#3 Justin Fuente
#4 Matt Rhule
#5 Greg Schiano
#6 Matt Wells
#7 Bo Pelini
#8 Dino Babers
#9 Scott Frost
#10 Jeff Brohm
#11 P.J. Fleck
#12 Pete Lembo
#13 Will Muschamp
#14 Rhett Lashlee
#15 Brian Polian

This is not necessarily my ranking for Virginia's opening, but rather my take on how the college football world views these guys, in general.

USC is not going to be hiring from this group. They'll throw boats and hoes at a higher-profile head coach somewhere, but that'll knock loose a domino effect that opens another tier 2 or tier 3 P5 job.

In any case, I feel like Virginia will be "drafting" somewhere in the #3 to #6 range from the above list. Would we be happy with Fuente, Rhule, Schiano, or Wells? How about "reaching" for Frost, Fleck, Lembo, or Lashlee?

Of course, it's not that simple. It's never that simple. Schools have to find cultural and institutional fits, right?  The coaches themselves get to decide which jobs they want.

Or maybe it WILL be that simple. Honestly, it doesn't take much squinting for me to look to the future and see Justin Fuente, Matt Rhule, Greg Schiano, or Matt Wells being named UVA's next head coach.

Anyway, great article by Pete Thamel.  We'll dig deeper in the coming weeks.  For now, read these, and learn.

I dare you to read that one and not feel extreme jealousy for Houston fans.

'Gotta Coach Somebody'
An oldie, but a goodie.  It makes you reconsider what you thought you knew about Greg Schiano.

College football's next hot coach: The rise of Justin Fuente at Memphis
Fuente, for my money, is riding the fastest-rising rocket right now.  I mean, just take a look at THIS on, for Christ's sake.

Ed Warinner skilled at improvising on offense
Warinner's pedigree is impeccable.

Matt Wells finds balance on and off field with the Aggies
He sounds very UVA, doesn't he?

Still unknown: Is P.J. Fleck the Next Big Thing ... or just passing through?

The elite recruiter: How P.J. Fleck is revolutionizing Western Michigan
I'm still forming my opinion on P.J. Fleck.  I like what I hear, but it also seems very froo-froo to me.  I'm watching Western Michigan with great interest this season.

The fun thing about up-and-coming coaches: There is a lot of really positive, entertaining press about them.  Much better than reading about the spiraling albatross that Virginia Football has become under Jon Oliver, Mike London, and Steve Fairchild.

September 9, 2015

Those New Helmets

I loved them when I first saw them.

As the game dragged (and dragged and dragged and dragged and dragged and dragged and dragged) along, I kind of changed my mind and started to dislike them.

Now, seeing the pictures, I freaking hate them. Can't stand 'em.

Is this my bad, clearly a function of me projecting my frustration over the game and the sad state of the program onto the poor, defenseless helmets? Or are they actually hideously fucking ugly?

Please help.

September 8, 2015

Required Reading

I am going to be referencing this article a lot in the coming weeks, so make sure you've read it.


There is a light at the end of the tunnel, Hoofans.

An Analogy

Your family - for whatever reason - exclusively flies Oceanic Airlines.  You have extreme brand loyalty.  Maybe... I dunno... maybe you came up as a Oceanic baggage handler or something.  But anyway, you and your family are fiercely loyal to Oceanic.

Oceanic Airlines hires some dude off the street to become a pilot.  They didn't interview anyone else, they just hired this guy, because he was pretty good as an air traffic controller, working for a different airline.  Maybe he even successfully flew a few podunk puddle-jumpers.  But Oceanic hires him for their trans-Atlantic flights, in the big fucking 747s with the bubble on the top.

This incompetent pilot that Oceanic hired ends up being the pilot for the flight your wife - your lovely, wonderful wife, whom you love and adore - is taking for her trip to... let's just say... London.  The incompetent pilot flies the plane over the Atlantic, and then promptly slams the fucker into the ocean.  He parachutes down into a lifeboat, safely.  But your wife, she may be LOST at sea forever.


Some Numbers

Mike London won 24 games in two seasons at Richmond. He has won one fewer -- 23 games -- in 5.1 seasons at Virginia.

Six of his Virginia wins have come against FCS opponents.

He is 3-2 against Group of 5 opponents.

He is 11-29 in the ACC.

He is 0-5 against Virginia Tech. In those games, Virginia has been outscored 132-47.

He is 0-5 against North Carolina.

He is 1-4 against Duke.

He is 1-14 against our three biggest conference rivals.