Virginia hasn’t earned a bowl bid since 2007, the program’s longest drought since George Welsh coached the Cavaliers to their first postseason game in 1984. A forgiving schedule and infusion of young talent – as many as a dozen true freshmen will play in Saturday’s opener – make ending that streak doable in 2011.
Here’s a game-by-game how-to:
William and Mary: Lose here and the Cavaliers go south faster than a New York retiree. And the Tribe is absolutely capable of winning. But a stout offensive line anchored by Morgan Moses should allow Virginia to control the clock and win.
At Indiana: The Hoosiers are among the Big Ten’s worst programs and must replace a quality quarterback in Ben Chappell. The Cavaliers have lost seven consecutive road games, dating to 2009. Something’s gotta give. UVa reprises 1984 NCAA East Regional final win over IU.
At North Carolina: Not sure how many Ws interim Tar Heels coach Everett Withers needs to keep the gig, but he gets one here thanks to one of the ACC’s best defenses.
Southern Mississippi: Brett Favre’s alma mater was 8-5 last season and returns quarterback Austin Davis. But the Golden Eagles allowed 36.5 points per game in their last six outings, and the Cavaliers will exploit that to improve to 3-1.
Idaho: The Vandals dropped their opener Thursday, 32-15 at home to Bowling Green. Given Idaho’s cross-country travel, this is Virginia’s most winnable game. Say hello to 4-1.
Georgia Tech: The Cavaliers have two weeks to prepare for an option offense that riddled them for 477 yards rushing and 33 points last season. It won’t be enough as Virginia falls to 0-2 in the ACC.
North Carolina State: Given the remaining schedule, the Cavaliers’ bowl hopes could well hinge on this fourth consecutive home game. Virginia spoils Tom O’Brien’s return to Charlottesville with an upset.
At Miami: The Hurricanes were upset victims last season at Scott Stadium and have little home-field advantage, even for a Thursday nighter such as this. But Al Golden will have them much better prepared than did Randy Shannon, and the best team will win.
At Maryland: I’m less enamored of the Terps than are others, but Danny O’Brien is the ACC’s most established quarterback, and the Cavaliers are sketchy on the road. Maryland prevails.
Duke: Here we go. By these projections, all that separates Virginia from six victories and bowl eligibility is a win over the Devils. Except the Cavs have dropped three straight in the series. A fourth would be deflating but won’t happen. Plenty of Military Bowl tickets available!
At Florida State: Certainly Virginia’s most difficult assignment. The Cavaliers have beaten the Seminoles twice, but never in Tallahassee – 0-8 with an average margin of 26.1 points. Expect similar treatment on this trip.
Virginia Tech: But don’t expect a repeat of last year’s 30-point loss to the Hokies. At home, the Cavaliers should be more competitive. But not enough to win.
So there you have it, a 6-6 regular season, probable bowl invite and continued momentum for the London administration.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun