Virginia Beat: Schedule Analysis

Let’s face it: College football scheduling is patently unfair.  If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be such a hue and cry for a playoff.  Every year, you analyze and pore over the roster, and you convince yourself that the depth chart is as good as it’s been in ages.  Especially if you’re a Virginia fan; we have a way of overestimating the bloody daylights out of the talent on the roster.  But the schedule is just as important.  Momentum is so important; winning breeds winning, losing breeds losing, and a tough stretch on the schedule can turn a promising season into a disaster.  Or vice versa.

So I think, as part of the runup to the season, it’s worth a look at Virginia’s schedule, to see which parts of it are inviting and welcoming, and which are lying in ambush ready to sabotage the entire autumn.  I’m a guy who likes simple breakdowns, and the schedule happens to sort itself out into three easy-to-see segments.  Normal people call them “months.”

September

Bill Schautz

The Hoos open the season the same way a lot of teams do: with cannon fodder.  UVA has, of late, taken to scheduling an in-state I-AA opponent to start the season, and this year, Richmond comes to town.  Even if they’re one of the better teams in that division, you better be expecting a win, or you might as well cut the whole exercise short and call any win total above zero a bonus.

The rest of the month is a tough haul indeed.  The Hoos host Penn State in Week 2; if you think you know what kind of team that’ll be this year, you’re either lying or I’m going to ask you to buy me a lottery ticket.  The next two games are road tilts: the ACC opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where the Hoos always have trouble, and then a game in Texas against TCU.  If UVA manages a split in the month of September, UVA fans will consider that a win, and a 3-1 record after four games would be cause for a lot of excitement.

October

OK, technically, the fifth game of the season is still in September.  But it doesn’t fit with the narrative, so we’re blatantly ignoring that fact.  That’s because the month of October (plus the September 29th game against Louisiana Tech) is the easiest stretch of the season.  It’s enough to make a UVA fan nostalgic for Grohtober, in which Al Groh always seemed to go on a season-saving win binge.

Having October set up like this doesn’t hurt.  With three home games (Louisiana Tech, Maryland, Wake Forest) and a trip to Duke, if UVA expects to make the postseason, this is the part where they need to pull off a clean sweep.  The three least difficult ACC games all reside in October, and if the Hoos split the four games in the first one-third of the season and then roll to a four-game winning streak here, they will be bowl-bound before the November homestretch.  The month then ends with a much-needed bye; it’s never ideal to have the bye week early, and the two-thirds mark of the season is the perfect time, with another challenging portion of the schedule awaiting.

November

The month kicks off with a trip to NC State, which beat UVA last year in a game that wasn’t even close.  Or even close to close, despite a final margin of “only” two touchdowns.  UVA then hosts Miami, UNC on a Thursday night, and finishes off the season with the traditional rivalry game in Blacksburg.  If UVA is 6-2 heading into November — a very doable feat — winning just one of these games will land them at 7-5 — and as we saw last week, that’d serve to meet expectations.

A lot of favorable miscellanea are sprinkled into this schedule as well. It’s also not often you get to play the second half of the season with four home games in six contests.  After returning from Duke in the first weekend of October, UVA goes on the road just twice more in the season.  Most of the pivotal games — those against ACC or BCS teams of similar talent — are at home, with Penn State, Wake Forest, UNC, and Miami visiting Charlottesville.  Neither of the Atlantic Division’s two prime contenders — Clemson and Florida State — appear on this year’s slate.  And finally, though it’s not ideal to play a Thursday game (UNC) just five days after a Saturday one (Miami), both games are at home, so travel won’t be a factor — and better yet, the Thursday game allows for a long lead-in and extra prep for the end-of-season showdown against Virginia Tech.  Whatever obstacles are in UVA’s way this season, the schedule isn’t one of them.  It’s among the most favorable in the ACC, and the Cavaliers will have no schedule-related excuses for not succeeding in 2012.

Brendan’s bio:  I’m just this guy … this ordinary Virginia graduate and fan who woke up one day realizing his opinions on everything UVA could no longer be contained in one space.  Thus was born From Old Virginia, a labor of love where you can find obsessive opinionating on Virginia football, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, and whatever else when the mood strikes.  And if that’s still not enough for you, go to the Twitster and follow @MaizeNBlueWahoo for the dumb stuff that pops into my head when I’m watching the Hoos.

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