Last season, Mike London and the UVA football team finished with an 8-5 record and Chick-Fil-A bowl berth, the team's first postseason appearance since 2007. The result was the culmination of a great recruiting turnaround by the coaching staff and year's of hard work from our student athletes
However, it was also aided by a favorable schedule, which made reaching the six-win bar to qualify for a bowl game just that much easier. How does the 2012 schedule compare?
While it's tough to predict exactly how strong UVA's opponents will be, we'll take a closer look at whether the out-of-conference slate will be a benefit in gaining bowl eligibility and how the ACC schedule compares to other teams in the conference.
Out-of-conference - in approximate order of strength
|2011 Opponent||2011 W-L (Finish)||2012 Opponent||2011 W-L (Finish)|
|Southern Miss||12-2 (C-USA champs)||@ TCU||11-2 (MWC Champs)|
|@ Indiana||1-11 (Last B10)||Penn State||9-4 (2nd B10-Leaders)|
|Idaho||2-10 (Last WAC)||Louisiana Tech||8-5 (WAC Champs)|
|William and Mary||5-6 (8th CAA)||Richmond||3-8 (Last CAA)|
So, the 2012 OOC slate is more difficult. Both seasons, we play an I-AA team that I won't call a "freebie" for superstition purposes. In 2011 we played a tough Southern Miss team at Scott Stadium, where a late comeback bid fell just short. In 2012, our toughest game gets even harder, as the Hoos play a really good TCU team in Fort Worth.
Our other two non-ACC opponents, PSU and Louisiana Tech, are no pushovers either. Penn State comes to Charlottesville in obvious turmoil, but they'll still be a major conference team chips on their shoulders. Similarly, Louisiana Tech should not be overlooked; they may not be a name that jumps out off the paper, but they went 6-1 in the WAC last year and made the Poinsettia Bowl, where they fell to TCU. On the other hand in 2011, Virginia played two teams that appeared to be free wins (and they were wins, though that didn't become clear until the final seconds of either game).
Looking at the out-of-conference schedules side-by-side demonstrates the increase in difficulty the Hoos will see. In 2011, UVA went 3-1 and had legitimate hopes of sweeping all 4 games. This year, any Wahoo fan would likely consider a similar result to be a great success.
Here, I am mainly concerned about how UVA's schedule compares with other teams' in the ACC Coastal division. All teams in the Coastal play a full round-robin with each other (so Virginia's 2012 schedule matches its 2011 version, with home and away teams swapped). Then, they play 3 games against the Atlantic - the Hoos see Maryland every year, and this season get NC State and Wake Forest, as seen below:
|2011 Atlantic Opponent||2011 Atlantic Finish||2012 Atlantic Opponent||2012 Media Projection|
|NC State||4||@ NC State||3|
|@ FSU||3||Wake Forest||4|
In terms of ACC schedules, the Hoos are in pretty good shape. While the finish order from last season and predicted finishes for the 2012 season are identical, swapping Florida State for Wake Forest is a pretty good deal. The Hokies, for comparison's sake, see Florida State and Clemson (picked 1-2) in addition to BC. UNC sees the same three teams as UVA does, and Georgia Tech has Maryland, Clemson, and BC.
What's the bottom line? Putting together an 8-5 record in 2012 will be a taller task than last year. Despite substantial uncertainty in predicting opponents' strengths, the out-of-conference section of the schedule makes the year an unequivocally tougher one. On the bright side, Wahoo fans do have an exciting home slate to look forward to.
What are your thoughts on this years schedule? What match-ups are you looking forward to? We'll have more on indiviudual 2012 opponents as the start of the season nears.