Virginia coach Mike London should have a lower profile quarterback competition during the 2013 season. (Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images.)
Today at No. 42: Virginia
Coach: Mike London (16-21, fourth season; 40-26 overall)
2012 record: 4-8 (2-6 ACC; sixth in Coastal Division)
Look back: Virginia's 2012 season was marked by a high rate of turnovers and an inconsistent offense that was the product of a quarterback competition that spilled into the season. The year also was marred by several close losses. The Cavaliers dropped four games by a combined 22 points. One year after an 8-5 campaign that included a road win over Florida State and an appearance in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the 4-8 showing was far from what London or his staff had expected to see.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 4
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: QB Michael Rocco, QB Phillip Sims, RB Perry Jones, OT Oday Aboushi, LB LaRoy Reynolds, LB Steve Greer, K Drew Jarrett
Top returnees: WR Tim Smith, WR Darius Jennings, OT Morgan Moses, DE Jake Snider, CB Demetrius Nicholson, S Brandon Phelps
Strengths: Perhaps the biggest strength the Cavaliers have going for themselves this season as opposed to the last is the fact that they don't have to worry about a headlines-grabbing quarterback competition. Although Michael Rocco had started the year before, Phillip Sims' arrival as a transfer from Alabama last fall had London rethinking that game plan entering 2012. Despite playing four games in the middle of the year, Sims was ultimately replaced by Rocco, who began the season as the starter. The drama disappeared completely this spring after Rocco graduated and Sims was dismissed due to academic ineligibility. Now David Watford and Greyson Lambert will battle for the starting job.
Along with the fact that they won't have such a high-profile quarterback battle, the Cavaliers should have stability on the sidelines, too. Former North Carolina State head coach Tom O'Brien and veteran coordinator Jon Tenuta joined the Virginia staff this offseason. O'Brien will serve as London's associate head coach for offense, while Tenuta, who has spent time at Georgia Tech and NC State, will be the Cavaliers' defensive coordinator.
Weaknesses: Virginia's schedule may be its only glaring weakness right now, and that's not saying much. The Cavaliers actually boast a rather favorable schedule. Most of their tougher games are at home. Where the schedule poses its biggest challenge is near its conclusion. As Virginia hopes to be making a push for a spot in the ACC Championship Game and the best possible bowl option, it will have to play the Coastal Division's best teams. One week after facing Atlantic Division title favorite Clemson, the Cavaliers travel to North Carolina and Miami before closing out with division- and in-state-rival Virginia Tech.
Outlook: Virginia should have a strong first half of the season. Only Oregon at home poses a real threat in the early stretch. With O'Brien and Tenuta now on staff, the Cavaliers have one of the conference's top coordinator tandems. If they can execute what they're taught, they can challenge in the Coastal Division. As a result of its back-loaded conference schedule, Virginia likely isn't staring at an ACC championship game berth, but the team should earn bowl eligibility.
Aug. 31 BYU
Sept. 7 Oregon
Sept. 14 Virginia Military Institute
Sept. 28 at Pittsburgh
Oct. 5 Ball State
Oct. 13 at Maryland
Oct. 19 Duke
Oct. 26 Georgia Tech
Nov. 2 Clemson
Nov. 9 at North Carolina
Nov. 23 at Miami
Nov. 30 Virginia Tech