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Virginia Cavaliers

College Football

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Bronco Mendenhall knew turning around Virginia football would be difficult, but maybe he didn’t realize how difficult. The former BYU coach started off by losing to Richmond in last year’s opener and only went on to win two games, two fewer than the previous season. The problem is that there remain questions of talent at every level, starting on offense.

From a group that was one of the worst in the nation scoring just 22.5 points per game, quarterback Kurt Benkert returns to lead the way after throwing for 21 TDs and 11 INTs with a 56.2% completion rate. The hope is that he’ll build even more rapport with his top two receivers in Doni Dowling (626 yards, 4 TDs) and Olamide Zaccheaus (584 yards, 7 TDs). Keeping him up right is another question as three starters are gone from the offensive line that wasn’t great to begin with. To go with that, the Hoos will have to work in a new running back as Jordan Ellis and Daniel Hamm will fight for carries after the two of them combined for 17 carries last season (Ellis had 14). Needless to say, this offense still has a ton of work to do and even with experience at quarterback, that may not be enough.

Virginia had some good outings defensively last season, but still ended up allowing 33.8 points per game and ultimately disappointed. Similar to the offensive side, there is talent returning, so the room for improvement is there. With two players expected to go early in the NFL Draft, there’s no reason why this group can’t be better. Micah Kiser is one of the best linebackers in the conference and he’s surrounded by three returning starters and the same can be said for safety Quin Blanding in the secondary. Both players are at the top of their respective positions, but it didn’t work out a year ago. There are plenty of issues up front as the Cavs were gashed on the ground often in 2016, but the back end should at least be better.

Virginia has the players and the schedule to get more wins than a year ago with the first three on the schedule being winnable. Then again, this group lost to Richmond last season, so there are no guarantees. At a minimum, two wins should be expected going into ACC play in early October and then from there, it’s up for grabs. The Cavaliers probably won’t win a road game, but have plenty of chances to win a couple conference games with Duke, BC and Georgia Tech all visiting Charlottesville.

At the end of the day, Virginia has the worst odds along with a few other teams (+10000 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the ACC. The Coastal may be a toss up, but Virginia is a long way off from competing at the top with the goal for now being to reach four or five wins. With a favorable opening schedule, that should be possible, but a bowl game is a bit further off.


2017 Virginia Cavaliers Football Schedule                                                                                                                            

Sept. 2 vs. William & Mary
Sept. 9 vs. Indiana
Sept. 16 vs. Connecticut
Sept. 22 at Boise State

Oct. 7 vs. Duke
Oct. 14 at North Carolina
Oct. 21 vs. Boston College

Oct. 28 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 4 vs. Georgia Tech
Nov. 11 at Louisville
Nov. 18 at Miami
Nov. 24 vs. Virginia Tech

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