Friday, January 1, 2010

tournament of the decade

Happy New Year. Myself, I can't believe it's already 2010. 2009 was the fastest year in history, except for fall Saturdays and Sundays during which my favorite football teams beat me mercilessly over the head. Looking back on this whole decade of football, in fact, makes me pretty happy we're moving to a new one. Given the way things went in football, especially with the Lions, I think I'd throw the whole thing back in the pot and take my chances over again if a genie offered me that chance.

I don't have any "Year That Was" or whatever lined up. But in recognition of the end of the '00s decade, which I refuse to call the aughts by the way, I'm going for something a little different. Full disclosure: I first saw this done sometime back over at From The Rumble Seat, that excellent corner of the Georgia Tech universe, and I'm blatantly ripping it off. It was their idea first. But we'll adapt it to UVA: I've seeded Al Groh's UVA teams of this past decade from #1 to #9 and set them up in a tournament, which then is played out using the magic of WhatIfSports. They let you match up two teams of any year back to about 1996 or so and play a fictitious game, if you're not familiar.

So which of Al Groh's teams really is the best? Since, you know, a playoff is absolutely, positively the only way to determine a champion and by definition it always produces the best team and most exciting matchups every time. Here are the seedings for our little playoff:

#9: 2009

Record: 3-9
Bowl: None


#8: 2008

Record: 5-7
Bowl: None

Gee, was it the right time to let go of Al Groh? The two worst seasons of his tenure came it the end, so, yes. The '08 season looked salvageable, but it included that really ugly Duke loss and, as exciting as it was to go on that midseason tear that made us look like a legit team, it was just that deflating to finish the season by blowing what looked like a sure bowl bid.

#7: 2001

Record: 5-7
Bowl: None

Taking over Welsh's team. This season had its moments, but most of the wins, even the Richmond one, were nailbiters, and a five-game losing streak midyear torpedoed the season.

#6: 2006

Record: 5-7
Bowl: None


#5: 2005

Record: 7-5
Bowl: Music City; 34-31 over Minnesota

Meh again, but a better meh at least. It did have that Florida State win.

#4: 2004

Record: 8-4
Bowl: M** C*******s (Humanitarian); 34-37 loss to Fresno State

The bowl game was a microcosm of the season: big roaring start, disappointing ugly thud at the end.

#3: 2003

Record: 8-5
Bowl: C*********l T***; 23-16 over Pittsburgh

Not the most accomplished of seasons - 5 losses - but one of the most fun with wins over VT and in the bowl game to finish it off.

#2: 2002

Record: 9-5
Bowl: C*********l T***; 48-22 over West Virginia

Really awful start, but in the end we were a top team in the conference, should have had a better bowl, and took out that injustice on WVU.

#1: 2007

Record: 9-4
Bowl: Gator; 28-31 loss to Texas Tech

Results are what matter in the seeding and this season had the best of 'em, topped off with Al Groh's only New Year's bowl invite.

You might remember how the ACC basketball tournament used to play out, with 8 and 9 playing for the right to be devoured by the 1 seed. Same here. All games are played at Scott Stadium in good weather, with WhatIfSports giving the higher seed a home-field advantage. Cross my heart and hope to die, I haven't rigged this or set up a desired result or anything. As I type this, the results are as unknown to me as to you. That's about to change, as here we go with the first game, the play-in between the 2008 and 2009 teams:

Play-in: '08 44, '09 17

Familiar script as the '09 offense sputtered and died after holding a 10-7 lead after one quarter. The '09 offense failed to capitalize on the four interceptions thrown by '08's Marc Verica, and Verica settled down after a rough, three-pick first quarter to throw for 320 yards and two touchdowns. '09 Sewell's pass protection was awful, as the '08 defense planted him for six sacks, and Sewell was ineffective all game. He picked up nearly as many rush attempts as pass attempts while scrambling for his life. Cedric Peerman rushed for 159 yards for the '08 team, including a 62-yard scamper early in the fourth to set up a field goal, and picked up player of the game honors. After the game, the '09 team talked disappointedly about not being able to send coach Al Groh off in style with a win, while the '08 team was pleased to have had the chance to rescue their coach's job and expressed hope that the following season would be a better one.

Quarterfinal 1: '07 54, '08 31

It looked like a monumental upset in the making as the '08 team took a 24-10 lead into halftime, but the third quarter was a nightmare as five turnovers - two Verica picks, two fumbles, and one on downs - combined with big plays from the '07 offense to make for a five-touchdown outburst that put the game away. Cedric Peerman was an offensive star for both teams but the '07 version ran for 168 yards and was named player of the game. '07's Jameel Sewell also had a nice game, passing for 278 yards and 2 TDs/no picks on 19-for-28.

Quarterfinal 2: '05 34, '04 20

The first upset of the tournament is a minor one as the '05 team controls the game from the outset, using a three-touchdown performance from quarterback and player of the game Marques Hagans to overcome a big rushing day from '04's Alvin Pearman. Hagans's '04 self didn't fare nearly as well, completing just five passes all day.

Quarterfinal 3: '03 40, '06 20

Matt Schaub showed why he's an NFL prospect, passing for 438 yards as the '03 team piled up 568 yards of offense in a big win. Schaub averaged 18 yards per completion and threw a pair of 55-yard touchdowns, one to Art Thomas and another to Deyon Williams. The normally reliable Chris Gould of the '06 squad missed four field goals, helping to negate the effects of the five turnovers committed by the '03 team.

Quarterfinal 4: '02 40, '01 27

It was a tale of two Schaubs. The '02 version threw three touchdowns, and the '01 version threw four picks. Penalties (the '02 team committed 11) and the big running of Antwoine Womack kept the '01 team in the game; Womack carried for 128 yards despite splitting carries with Alvin Pearman.

(No score thingy here because I forgot. Just take my word for it.

Semifinal 1: '07 49, '05 7

The '05 team found itself totally overmatched, and the 6 turnovers didn't help. Cedric Peerman ran wild for 182 yards, and though the '05 team actually took the 7-6 lead on a Jason Snelling touchdown to open the second quarter scoring, the '07 defense would hold '05 to just 202 yards of offense and score the next three touchdowns in the quarter to take a 26-7 lead into the half.

Semifinal 2: '03 59, '02 44

As you'd expect from two teams both having Matt Schaub at quarterback, a barn-burner. Schaub didn't throw an interception for either team, but the '03 version was a spectacular 30-for-34 for 385 yards and 4 touchdowns. The '03 offense racked up over 600 total yards, did not allow a sack, and only two of its drives failed to end in scores.

Championship game: '07 31, '03 7

The 2003 team may have won the Schaub Bowl but the offensive magic failed them in the championship. Though Schaub was 20-for-27 passing, his running game disappeared as the '07 defense held the '03 team to an average of 2.1 ypc on the ground; Wali Lundy could only manage 30 yards on 20 carries.

So there you have it - the 2007 team was, according to the playoff at least, the best of Al Groh's tenure. Played out on the field and everything. Here's the bracket in all its glory.


Lee J. Cockrell said...

I just can't see the 05 team beating the 04 version. Without Marques Hagans, 2005 was a three or four win season. And 2004 was the most talented team of Groh's tenure.

Brendan said...

Actually, I sort of expected one of the Schaub teams of 2002 or 3 to take the prize.

'04 was talented, but ultimately also the biggest disappointment of the decade.

Maroussia said...

It will be great to watch Music City Bowl, i have bought tickets from looking forward to it.