This is part 11 of a 12 piece series examining all 12 ACC school’s 2012 schedule and making predictions based on returning players and incoming talent. Today we focus on the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers had an excellent season in 2011. Head coach Mike London had a winning season in just his second season at the helm. UVa finished the regular season with a 5-3 conference record and an 8-5 record overall (good enough for second in the Coastal Division). Right now there is a battle for the starting quarterback position for the Wahoos between Michael Rocco (the incumbent), David Watford (last year’s backup) and Alabama transfer Phillip Sims. Rocco has the inside track right now as he is the incumbent, but if he isn’t good at the start of the season it could open the door for the other two.
It is fair to say that Virginia overachieved last season. Some luck was involved as the Cavaliers averaged giving up 23.8 points per game while only scoring an average of 23.2 points per game. Despite the scoring differential, the Cavaliers were still able to win eight games. UVa will take a step back in 2012 for two reasons: the first being a loss of a large group of senior starters from last season, and the second being the law of averages in regard to their point differential.
Virginia starts out the season against FCS school Richmond. The Spiders aren’t a bad team but UVa is too good for them. This isn’t the 2009 Cavaliers team that lost to FCS opponent William & Mary. Virginia will win this game by a large margin (Predicted Virginia record 1-0). Penn State will then visit Charlottesville in week 2. Penn State will be a shell of its former self this season, thanks to the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the NCAA sanctions that followed. If the Cavaliers can’t win this game then it would be considered a huge upset on the part of the Nittany Lions. The Wahoos will finish off Penn State in the later stages of the game (Virginia record 2-0).
The Cavaliers will then travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech in week 3. Virginia was the first team to beat the Yellow Jackets last season but that game was in Charlottesville. This game won’t be a blowout by any means, but GT will come out on top (Virginia record 2-1). UVa will then head to Texas to play new Big 12 member TCU. Virginia won’t have much of a chance in this game unless Rocco has the game of his life (Virginia record 2-2).
Louisiana Tech will then visit UVa. This is the Cavaliers final non-conference game of the season. The Bulldogs had a solid season in 2011 with an 8-5 record which was good enough to win the WAC. This will be a close game but Virginia will pull it out because of their defense (Virginia record 3-2). UVa then plays Duke in Durham. Duke may be the worst team in the ACC this year. The Cavs will just be too good for Duke and pull it out in the end (Virginia record 4-2).
UVa’s next two games are at home. The first comes against Maryland, the worst team in the ACC last season, and their hot seat head coach Randy Edsall. The Terrapins will be a little better in Edsall’s second season at the helm, but they won’t be good enough to beat the Cavaliers (Virginia record 5-2). Virginia then hosts Wake Forest. Wake was a good team last season and this game will be close. This is a game in which Virginia’s loss of seniors on defense will hurt them and Wake will take advantage and pull the win out late (Virginia record 5-3).
The Wahoos will then travel to Raleigh to take on North Carolina State. The Wolf Pack will be one of the best teams in the league this season, behind star quarterback Mike Glennon. Virginia will do their best to make this game close, but they don’t have much of a chance at winning it. N.C. State will win this game (Virginia record 5-4). Virginia follows that up with a home game against the Miami Hurricanes. Last season UVa was able to beat Miami in Coral Gables with a final score of 28-21. This time around Miami’s talent will show up. The Hurricanes will take a step forward in Al Golden’s second year as head coach. Miami will win this game late (Virginia record 5-5).
Virginia ends the season with two rivalry games. The first comes at home against North Carolina. UNC won’t be an awful team in 2012 but they won’t have much to play for as they are serving a bowl ban this season. UNC won the matchup between these two last season, but that won’t be the case this time around. UVa has the home field advantage and that sways the game in the Cavaliers favor (Virginia record 6-5).
Virginia will end the regular season with a trip to Blacksburg to take on archrival Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers haven’t beaten Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004. Virginia’s team last year was considered to have a good chance of ending that streak. Logan Thomas and company then marched into Charlottesville and decimated the Wahoos by a score of 38-0. It will be a little closer this year, UVa will at least score, but Virginia Tech will once again beat Virginia (Virginia record).
The Virginia Cavaliers will take a step back in 2012 but will still finish with a 6-6 record (good enough for a bowl bid). They will have some problems in conference play and end 2012 with a 3-5 record in the ACC. Their record will be good enough for a fourth place finish in the Coastal division behind Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Miami.