The Virginia Cavaliers 2015 football season gets underway this Saturday when the team takes on UCLA. Your STL staff got together to discuss our expectations for the season:
Brian S: How will this season end for Virginia Football? Make a BOLD PREDICTION for the year if you have one.
Brian S: I say Virginia starts off 1-3 in OOC play, but never really stands a chance because of the tough scheduling. The team goes a solid 4-4 in ACC play, but falls short of a bowl. BOLD PREDICTION: Mike London is fired before the VT game (when UVA can no longer make a bowl game), but the team beats Virginia Tech in London's final game.
Brian H: I think the Hoos finish 4-8, and London is retained because the administration has little interest in paying someone to do nothing. Defense is passable, but prone to late collapses. The offense is once again toothless with occasional bouts of mediocrity.
Matt E.: Virginia starts off 2-2 with victories over W&M and Boise State at home. The Cavaliers continue the early momentum in conference, winning 3 of their first 5 ACC contests before getting blown out at Louisville in their worst loss of the season. They recover in time to pick up a victory over Duke before falling again to VT, but the 6-6 record is enough to earn London a 3 year extension given the tough schedule.
Danny: UVA starts off 1-3 in out of conference play. Then once ACC play starts they rattle off 4-5 wins. When they are one win away from being bowl eligible, they lose the last two home games against Duke and VT, and London is fired after our 12th straight loss to the Hokies.
Eric: So, Danny is basically predicting 2012 all over again, with the late-season collapse. I think UVa plays well in their first four games, but with the only win coming against William & Mary, confidence fades. The season melts down after that, and a couple days before Thanksgiving, Craig Littlepage announces that the Virginia Tech game will be London's last at Virginia. With a newfound resolve, the players send their coach out on a high note with a close win over the Hokies in Charlottesville, their first win in the rivalry in 12 years.
Pierce: I'm predicting a 5-7 finish with another loss to the Hokies included and Coach London will be retained. With wins over W&M, Boise State, Cuse, Miami, and Duke, Virginia will once again miss bowl season while accomplishing the apparent goal of the athletic administration: sustained mediocrity in football, championships in everything else.
Matt T.: A veteran Virginia team finds a way to pull an early upset, going 2-2 out of conference. They don't suffer from the same late-game meltdowns of last season, and manage to get 4 ACC wins over Syracuse, Duke, UNC, and Miami. 4-4 in the league is enough to keep London's job, much to the chagrin of others. Virginia plays in the Military Bowl and loses a close one.
Brian L: BOLD PREDICTION: Virginia will just edge out the Hokies, but will still miss a bowl game. I disagree with Eric and Schwartz — I think this will be London's last at Virginia, but he won't be let go until after the season ends. The position will be vacant by the time of the ACC Championship game, though. If London is indeed fired after this season, I don't think we'll be getting any "Man in the Mirror" poems.
Tiki: We start out 1-3 with a blowout win over W&M. However, the tough early season schedule strengthens the team for the ACC slate and they rattle off 4 wins in a row (Pitt, Cuse, UNC, GT) before falling at Miami and at Louisville. A win over Duke clinches a bowl, but the Hoos fall to VT again in a close game that Mike London blows yet again. Still, London is retained after the 6-6 season.
Brian S: Okay, so many of us are...pretty pessimistic about the season. What bright spots could we look at? A breakout player? Nice weather at Scott Stadium?
Matt E.: Hey I said we'd make a bowl game. If you want 2 player related bright spots, Quin Blanding will make first team All-ACC and All-American in addition to receiving votes, but not winning, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award. Also, Canaan Severin parlays his strong connection with Matt Johns to become the first UVa player with over 50 catches since Kris Burd in 2011.
Brian S: Will UVA fans like what we see from Matt Johns? It's been a while since there's been a defined starting QB for a full season...will he start 12 regular season football games?!
Eric: I think he will and he'll actually be the best QB we've had since Rocco.
Brian L: Yes! I, for one, am very excited to see Matt Johns, and I don't think there's really anyone who's realistically going to take the start from him (and that includes Cutler). I hope he's going to continue to be fairly mobile in the pocket and, without a backup with a strong arm breathing down his back, hopefully he's going to pull the trigger and let it fly this season as well.
Brian H: I think Johns's lack of plus arm strength will frustrate fans. The offense's inability to open up the deep part of the field has allowed opposing defenses to sell out against the run and short routes. I don't think it changes with Johns.
Pierce: I think Johns will absolutely do enough to remain the starter if he stays healthy. He'll benefit from being the clear #1 guy all offseason, something that's been sorely lacking on the team recently. I think Johns showed more than enough last year that he can handle the job and can hopefully show some growth in his decision making. His upside, compared to our recent years of QB play, is fairly high - think: better than Rocco's best year.
Matt T: I'm optimistic about Johns. It wasn't until Matt Schaub's junior year that he fully came on and turned into the All-ACC quarterback we remember. Schaub was an accurate passer and a great game manager who thrived in a perfect system for him. I don't see any reason Johns couldn't show a similar breakthrough if he and Fairchild mesh. I remember Fairchild touting Johns as early as 2013 as a quarterback option. I'm interested to see how they work together.
Tiki: I'd be optimistic about Johns if we had a real offensive coordinator or QB coach. UCLA's front 7 is very good. So we're going to come out running and it's not going to work and he's going right back to his half-spread "read-option without the option"-based offense throwing 45 times a game.
Caroline: Keyboard cat here. We go 2-2 to open play, and 5-3 in conference with wins over Cuse, UNC, Pitt, Duke, and a huge win over VT. Going bowling. I actually am super excited about Johns, and think TJ Thorpe makes a huge comeback for the UNC game. Blanding will lead the team in tackles. We get no "too many men on the field" penalties. Everyone is stoked and buys season tickets again.
What say you guys? Does Virginia make a bowl? Do we finally knock off the Hokies? And what do you expect from Matt Johns? Continue the discussion in the comments.