For every summer that I can remember, I've participated in a personal ritual of walking through the upcoming Virginia football season in my head and counting the games I think the Wahoos will win...
Once I finish, I count a second time...
Once I finish that, I count a third time and include the games that Virginia could win...
Without fail, I usually come up with a way to get between six and eight wins. While I don't consider myself overly optimistic, I'm certainly not a pessimist either. When the season rolls around, I often end up pleasantly surprised like in 2007 and 2011. Other times, I end up incredibly frustrated like in (deep breath) 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2013.
Which brings me to this summer and the question of Mike London's job security. I think London is a great man and a great ambassador for the university. He does so many things right and he runs his program the right way.
But for the life of me, I'm having a hard time counting up the six wins Virginia will need for bowl eligibility in 2014. And I wonder what that will mean for London's future. The "easiest" six wins I can think of in 2014 include Richmond, Kent State, Louisville, Pitt, North Carolina and Miami. If those games were played today, I think Virginia would be underdogs in four of those six.
Given the frailty of the program at the moment, one has to wonder if Craig Littlepage and Jon Oliver didn't inadvertently stack the deck against London with their aggressive scheduling. Littlepage and Oliver are staunchly behind London, but they certainly didn't do him any favors when picking out-of-conference. There aren't many fans who would count UCLA or a road game at BYU in the "likely win" column. Swapping one of those games for a...ahem...friendlier opponent would have helped the bowl eligibility cause. I've read on Twitter that the administration tried unsuccessfully to postpone the UCLA series. And I know that these schedules are created years in advance. But the bottom line is that Virginia will face one of the toughest schedules in the country with London's job presumably hanging in the balance.
I fully expect the on-field product will be better this year. The players will be in their second years in the schemes brought by Steve Fairchild and John Tenuta. Quarterback Greyson Lambert has a skill set that seemingly suits Fairchild's style more. And London has added two top-10 recruits on the defense.
But it seems there's a good possibility that Virginia's overall record won't reflect the team's progress as much as fans would like. In addition to UCLA and the BYU road game, Virginia also has to go to Tallahassee to play defending champion Florida State. Then there's the game in Blacksburg on Thanksgiving weekend, where the 'Hoos haven't won since dial-up internet was a thing.
For me, 6-6 is the magic number. A bowl game would show progress, give London something to sell to recruits and give the team some important extra practices. But what happens to London if Virginia looks better and finishes, say, 5-7? Would that progress be enough to save his job? Or would fan disillusionment force Littlepage's hand? I think it would be a close call.
As for the schedule, it doesn't lighten up in the near future. In 2015, the 'Hoos play Boise State and at UCLA. 2016 brings a trip to Oregon and 2017 features Stanford and a trip to Boise State. Again, one has to wonder what Littlepage and Oliver were thinking.