It's easy for me to sit here and write a satirical piece about how the sudden fire set ablaze on UVA's new indoor football facility is foreshadowing the demise of the program. But let's have some perspective for just a second: the 2012 season is far from over. Sure, Saturday's 42-17 loss at Duke is an extremely painful one, and has knocked the Hoos to the cellar of the ACC Coastal division, but UVA still has a winning record within its reach. This, however, is only possible if they capitalize on their next two home games -- a pivotal stretch in which they face Maryland and Wake Forest.
Like UVA, both of these teams have seen ups and down in this young season, following up signature wins with head-scratching losses. In terms of talent, these two teams are on par with the Hoos, and the next couple of games appear to be very even on paper (Virginia actually has a slight edge in the spread against Maryland). So all factors remaining constant, what will be the biggest difference in vaulting UVA back into bowl game discussion or sending them deep into the basement of the ACC? Follow the jump to find out.
The answer is the Virginia home crowd. That's right, the UVA faithful could very well be the deciding factor in the outcome of the next two ball games, as they greatly influence the amount of energy the Hoos come out and play with. Now, let's be clear, when Scott Stadium is at full capacity, the atmosphere is electric. Is it on the same level as Clemson's Death Valley or Florida State's deafening home field? Absolutely not. All I'm saying is that when Scott Stadium is filled with 63,000 strong, and The Hill is jam-packed with rowdy students, there is an undeniable aura that lifts this team.
Take a look back to the Penn State game earlier this season. Fans were hyped to be facing a marquee opponent on a national stage, and the excitement rubbed off on the team, as they fended off a hungry Penn State squad to win 17-16. The packed house clearly rattled Penn State kicker Sam Ficken, who missed 4 field goals in the losing effort. Fast forward three weeks later, when a noticeably more reserved crowd entered Scott Stadium to watch Virginia take on a high-powered, yet unheralded Louisiana Tech team. Parts of the stadium's upper decks were clearly vacant, and the student section lacked the noise level they displayed against the Nittany Lions. Virginia's performance suffered, as an embarrassing third quarter sent them reeling to a 44-38 loss.
So, is this a wake-up call to Virginia fans to get loud? Sure, this post can be interpreted that way. When fully occupied, Scott Stadium can be a daunting venue for an opposing team. Especially in these next two games, where we have our work cut out for us with two equally-matched teams in Maryland and Wake Forest, the home crowd can make a world of difference. So let's fasten those bowties, deck out in orange and blue, fill the hill, and get ready to sing the Good Ole Song all afternoon long. This team desperately needs a spark, and the home fans hold the power to ignite them. I fully expect a perceptible buzz throughout Scott Stadium when Saturday rolls around in Charlottesville.
At least, I'm hoping there is one. After all, it might be the team's only hope as they slowly fade into the abyss.