Wednesday, November 27, 2013

game preview: SMU

Date/Time: Friday, November 29; 7:30

TV: CBS Sports Network

Record against the Mustangs: 0-0

Last meeting: N/A

Last game: UVA 69, HU 40; SMU 72, SHSU 53


UVA: 63.6 (#336)
SMU: 69.7 (#134)

UVA: 105.4 (#126)
SMU: 105.8 (#122)

UVA: 87.3 (#2)
SMU: 94.8 (#27)

UVA: .8973 (#11)
SMU: .7789 (#56)

Projected lineups:


PG: London Perrantes (2.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 3.2 apg)
SG: Malcolm Brogdon (11.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Mike Tobey (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.3 apg)

Southern Methodist:

PG: Nic Moore (12.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 5.3 apg)
SG: Nick Russell (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg)
SG: Ryan Manuel (5.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.5 apg)
PF: Shawn Williams (6.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.2 apg)
C: Yanick Moreira (11.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 0.5 apg)

UVA heads to Texas to partake of the inaugural Corpus Christi Challenge.  It's not really the most prominent tournament out there; in fact, UVA is certainly its most prestigious team.  Technically those Liberty and Hampton games were part of that whole deal; that gets set up that way because the NCAA allows you to count the whole tournament as one game against your seasonal limit (otherwise they'd be much less popular) and this way UVA still gets to pull in two games' worth of home-game revenue.  Which in turn is how a brand-new tournament can attract a Virginia to its ranks.

The bracket itself is only a four-teamer as far as we're concerned, with Texas A&M and Missouri State facing off on the other side of it.  So the Hoos are pretty clearly the geographic outsider.  Dallas is still a long way from Corpus Christi, though, so the game shouldn't be in front of too hostile a crowd.  As for the opponent, they're a traditionally also-ran team once coached by UNC reject Matt Doherty - and yeah, he cratered this program too - and now seeing major revival potential under the flighty but famous Larry Brown.  Brown is in his second year at SMU, which means they've probably got another year or two before he goes, but he remains the only coach to win both an NCAA and NBA title, and brings instant credibility.

-- UVA on offense

Because SMU starts 6'11" center Yanick Moreira, I expect Tony Bennett to counter with Mike Tobey.  Tobey has started the last three games while Anthony Gill has come off the bench; I wouldn't consider the frontcourt rotation totally settled yet, though.  I think Bennett is still playing the mad scientist just a bit with it.  But Tobey and Akil Mitchell in the starting lineup has appeared to work pretty darn nicely.

UVA's offensive efficiency is a little bit pedestrian, but the walkons have been making frequent appearances, usually playing a few minutes against the opponent's starters, and that's been making the numbers suffer a bit.  Turnovers and free throws are dragging the OE numbers down; the free throws are on the rotation members, but walkons can be expected to turn the ball over rather more regularly, and are responsible for about 10% of the team's TOs while playing about 5% of the minutes.

Actually, it's fairly remarkable the Hoos have as good an efficiency as they do; it's being pushed upwards by very good shooting from two (Gill is shooting 72.7%) and - quite surprisingly - offensive rebounding.  Tobey is killing it on the offensive glass with a 21.1% OR rate, good for 7th in the country.  This is a big reason why he takes a larger percentage of the team's shots than anyone else, by the way.  Darion Atkins - also an offensive rebounding machine.  If a few of the struggling Hoos start heating up from three, which Evan Nolte began to do against Liberty, and if more free throws start going down, you'll probably see a boost in efficiency.

Larry Brown usually has good defensive teams, and SMU is no different.  All numbers mentioned anywhere in this preview, for both teams, need to come with a major quality-of-competition caveat, but SMU is fifth in the country in allowing just 37.8% shooting from two.  Moreira is a very good shot-blocker, and the Mustangs bring power forward Markus Kennedy off the bench; he's got good size and bounce and active hands, too.  SMU is able to go quite deep in the frontcourt and can match UVA's depth man for man.

SMU's one loss, to respectable but not powerful Arkansas, wasn't as close as it looked.  Arkansas pulled away steadily and opened up a 24-point lead midway through the second half.  They did this by loosening up the SMU defense with three-pointers.  The hot hands for UVA right now are Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon; if they get hot early, the game will go a lot more smoothly; UVA can certainly win by pounding it inside, but SMU is a little better equipped to handle that approach, and the game will be more of a slog.  One final potential mismatch: Bennett should work on having Malcolm Brogdon run the point when 5'9" guard Nic Moore is in the game, as the 6'5" Brogdon ought to have no trouble posting him up or shooting over him, as long as he doesn't let Moore's quickness get the better of him.

-- UVA on defense

Moore will be in the game quite a bit; not only is he SMU's starting point guard (and Larry Brown is notoriously difficult to play the point for, so when he finds one he likes, he rides that horse a long way) but he's also been SMU's only three-point threat so far.  Moore is hitting at a .536 clip, and only two other Mustang players are likely to even try one.  These are Nick Russell (4-for-16) and hyped freshman Keith Frazier (6-for-22.)  With the pack-line geared toward letting struggling three-point shooters just chuck away, SMU will have a very hard time getting past UVA unless those two catch fire.

SMU's bigs have been having their way against the lousy competition, and most of them are pretty good free throw shooters, too.  Yanick Moreira is .556 from the field and .741 from the stripe, and reserve center Cannen Cunningham is .778 and .909, respectively.  Shawn Williams is shooting .621, and freshman beanpole Ben Moore (6'8", 185) .667.  They're used to having their way down low, but I daresay they have not faced a front line as athletic as UVA's or a defense as frustrating to score on.

And UVA has put up some gaudy defensive numbers.  SMU is fifth in the country at defending the two-pointer, but UVA is second.  Something will have to give in this side of the matchup.  Even better, UVA is doing it without fouling.  No Hoo has more than 3.5 fouls per 40 minutes, and UVA's 18.9% free-throw-to-field-goal ratio is tops in the country.  (In other words, teams have to attempt more than ten shots before they can get UVA to send them to the line on one of them.  Roughly speaking.)

Where SMU has their weakness is in the turnover department.  They're one of the absolute worst in the country at taking care of the ball, losing the ball to a steal on nearly 13% of their possessions.  Top culprits are junior guard Ryan Manuel, freshman wing Sterling Brown, and freshman guard Keith Frazier; Nic Moore can also be a high-assist, high-turnover sort of PG.  Manuel is close to having more turnovers than shot attempts.  Exploiting this obviously means the potential for a transition bucket or two, but also means that UVA has a good chance of removing the ball from SMU's clutches before they can get it to their high-efficiency forwards.

This is something of a wild-card, though; the main thing for this side of the matchup is how SMU's frontcourt deals with a defense they're definitely not accustomed to, operated by much more talented players they're used to seeing so far.  Hampton was surprisingly able to get the ball inside and in the hoop with some success, but UVA slammed the door on that fairly quickly.  The fact that Hampton was able to do so makes you wonder if SMU can too, given that they're much more talented than the Pirates, but a similar adjustment by UVA will put an end to that and the Mustangs hopes as well.

-- Outlook

There'll be a little feeling-out process at first here, and I would expect the early part of the game to progress fairly evenly.  I'd be surprised if anyone is able to seize control from the tip.  The smart money, though, would say that UVA should pull away.  It'll take some effort, but they should.  Don't be alarmed if that takes an entire half and the halftime score is close.  Tony Bennett is going up against one of the coaching masters, after all.  Larry Brown has made a career of making less talented teams surprisingly competitive, and he's one of the few coaches in the country whose defensive chops rival Tony's.  In the end, though, I like UVA's superior offensive versatility to prevail.

Final score: UVA 68, SMU 61


Happy Thanksgiving, all.  I'm out til Monday.  I thought there might be a slight chance of squeezing in a preview of the second half of Corpus Christi, but that game is on Saturday, not too long after the Friday one, so, forget it.  There just isn't time and I'm sure I'll be either fully engrossed in the train wreck taking place that afternoon, or consciously and purposely avoiding it, both of which require me to not be at this computer.

game preview: Virginia Tech

Date/Time: Saturday, November 30; 3:30


Line: VT by 13

Record against the Hokies: 37-52-5

Last meeting: VT 17, UVA 14; 11/24/12, Blacksburg

Last weekend: Miami 45, UVA 26; VT bye

Injury report: (too early)

How bad is it?  In this day and age where players can find bulletin board material in every corner of a sports page, the Hokie players decided to come right out and provide all UVA could handle.  Brutal honesty pervades the article, the only lies coming before the word "but" in every Hokie quote.**  And why shouldn't they?  They wouldn't say it if they were even the tiniest bit afraid they would lose.  I'd call it overconfidence, but there's nothing "over" about it.

-- UVA run offense vs. VT run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 210 carries, 926 yards, 4.4 ypc, 11 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 51 carries, 304 yards, 6.0 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
160.91 yards/game, 3.83 yards/attempt
91st of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

VT defense:
103.27 yards/game, 2.94 yards/attempt
4th of 125 (national), 1st of 14 (ACC)

Remember how I've been saying that really good defensive tackles will murder our offensive line, every time?  And how that comes true pretty much always?  Teams with one good DT, like Aaron Donald of Pitt, have had very little trouble imposing their will.

Tech so happens to have two really good DTs.  You don't usually find DTs so high on the tackles list; Luther Maddy and Derrick Hopkins are 4th and 6th, respectively.  Third tackle Nigel Williams has 13 tackles, 7 of which are for loss.  VT also rotates three defensive ends with impunity, and brings two top-quality linebackers in Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards.  It's a really aggressive defense that knows what the hell its doing.

The upshot is that the run game is going to go completely and utterly nowhere.  Kevin Parks needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and I'd be surprised to see him get half that.  I'd be surprised to see the whole team reach that number.  End of story.

-- UVA pass offense vs. VT pass defense

David Watford: 231/404, 57.2%; 2,080 yards, 8 TDs, 15 INTs; 5.15 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 39 rec., 330 yards, 2 TDs
Darius Jennings: 36 rec., 319 yards, 3 TDs

UVA offense:
215.1 yards/game, 5.1 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

VT defense:
164.9 yards/game, 6.2 yards/attempt
15th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

London promises that both Watford and Greyson Lambert will get to play this week.  I can't tell whether that means he's decided at long last to go back to the QB rotation or whether he means he already figures the game will be out of hand enough to get away with it.  I suspect it'll be more like giving Watford a much quicker hook, which it's about time for.  I know I said I wanted the QB merry-go-round to end - we all did - but that didn't mean I wanted the coaches to start digging once they hit rock bottom under center.

Neither quarterback is going to be successful.  VT has a whole bunch of guys who can get to the pocket and a pretty good secondary.  Brandon Facyson turned out to be a damn good cornerback when forced to step in for Antone Exum in the starting lineup.  Kendall Fuller is as advertised, too.  No reason to expect our receivers to be open.  Jake McGee can probably find a way to make some plays, but at this point the only WR I have much confidence in is Keeon Johnson; his size might provide some opportunity, although to counter that, Facyson is a pretty big cornerback himself.

Watford threw three picks against Miami; frankly I'd be terribly surprised to see our QBs combine for any fewer than that.  And I'd be surprised if they didn't have mouthfuls of turf every other play; just pencil in a minimum of four sacks for the VT defense.  Moving the ball will be close to impossible this week.  We make it terribly hard on ourselves; now we're facing a defense uniquely able to make it even harder.

-- VT run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Trey Edmunds: 155 carries, 582 yards, 3.8 ypc, 10 TDs
J.C. Coleman: 61 carries, 205 yards, 3.4 ypc, 0 TDs

VT offense:
117.09 yards/game, 3.12 yards/attempt
115th of 125 (national), 12th of 14

UVA defense:
174.73 yards/game, 4.49 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Hey, cool - something we do better than Tech.  Their usual inability to put a run game together to help out Logan Thomas is a big part of the reason for their late-season ACC slide.  Boston College and Maryland - decent but not exactly paragons of brilliant defense - held them to 55 and 54 yards on the ground, respectively.  This, naturally, has forced Thomas to win games with his arm - a dicey proposition.

Thomas and Trey Edmunds carry the running game, with J.C. Coleman providing a change of pace.  Tech's O-line problems are coming home to roost, though; it's just not a very good one, and they haven't been able to open a lot of running room.  If there's one matchup in this whole wretched game where UVA has an advantage, it's Brent Urban vs. Whoever Blocks Him.  And with some pretty good linebackers still running around, I like our chances to at least not fall completely flat on our face here.

Then again, you don't get to 2-9 without failing to live up to a few expectations along the way.  VT has been pretty impotent on the ground at times, but they've also had some successes, and against teams much better than ours.  The Miami game is one.  While I'd expect some stretches of reasonable success and maybe even a forced punt or two, don't go expecting this portion of the game to be four quarters of defensive dominance.

-- VT pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Logan Thomas: 211/362, 58.3%; 2,632 yards, 15 TDs, 12 INTs; 7.27 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Willie Byrn: 46 rec., 598 yards, 2 TDs
Demetri Knowles: 39 rec., 518 yards, 3 TDs

VT offense:
241.5 yards/game, 7.3 yards/attempt
64th of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
232.5 yards/game, 7.2 yards/attempt
74th of 125 (national), 12th of 14 (ACC)

I really think this will have very little to do with our defense, with one variable to be discussed in a bit.  The point is, Logan Thomas's performances vary astoundingly from one game to the next.  He was great against Miami, UNC, and GT.  He was pathetic against Marshall, Duke, and Alabama.  Thomas has trended somewhat upwards as the season goes on, but still.

The variable, of course, is that he'll get to throw against a defense missing the national interceptions leader for a half.  By the time Anthony Harris gets back, the game is likely to be out of hand, so it's a big deal.  Harris and Demetrious Nicholson are more than arguably the two most talented players in the secondary, so Thomas's degree of difficulty is significantly lessened.

Fortunately, his weapons are not tremendously frightening.  VT's receivers are good but not great, with Willie Byrn coming largely out of nowhere to be the team's receptions leader.  Thomas also leans on redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford, who could develop into a very productive player later in his career, and Demetri Knowles rounds out his top three targets.  D.J. Coles is a big and tall possession and red-zone target as well.

Using three- and four-wide sets is something I'd expect to see out of Tech; it'll severely test our depleted secondary and spread the field for their running game besides.  There have been isolated successes at times in defending the pass, but the strategy by and large will be to hope for one of Thomas's bad games.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 1
UVA pass offense: 0
UVA run defense: 5
UVA pass defense: 3.5

Average: 2.375

-- Outlook

Yeah, right.  Look, VT is a flawed team, but only on offense.  There are certain ways to imagine the shocker of all time, here, but when's the last time this 2013 UVA team ever successfully executed whatever followed the phrase "if we can just...."??  Whatever good the defense does will be undone and then some by paralyzing offensive ineptitude, which will include giving up touchdowns directly as well as the gift of short fields as well.  Do yourself a favor: Find a Saturday matinee movie.

-- Prediction summary

-- The entire UVA running game fails to gain 75 yards, sacks not included.

-- The UVA quarterbacks combine for at least three INTs.

-- And get sacked at least four times.

-- VT's defense scores at least one touchdown.

-- Logan Thomas's single-game passer rating is better than his season average of 126.4.

Final score: VT 31, UVA 3

-- Rest of the ACC

Miami @ Pittsburgh - Fri. 3:30 - Miami tries to keep its outside shot at a Coastal title alive.  Since they need us to win for that to happen, they'd probably be psychologically better off losing so they don't spend the next 24 hours with false hopes.

Florida State @ Florida - 12:00 - The penultimate hurdle for FSU's BCS CG hopes.

Duke @ North Carolina - 12:00 - If Duke wins, they become the ultimate hurdle.

Wake Forest @ Vanderbilt - 12:21 - 12:20 was just too early to expect fans to show up.

Maryland @ NC State - 12:30 - You can root for NC State because their opponent is Maryland, or you can root for Maryland so we'll have company in ACC Winless Land.

Georgia Tech vs. Georgia - 3:30 - This is the most evenly matched this game has been in years.

Boston College @ Syracuse - 3:30 - Cuse tries to give the ACC its 11th bowl-eligible team.

Clemson @ South Carolina - 7:00 - A win could put Clemson solidly into the BCS as an at-large team - the obstacle being the number of scrub-conference autobids that are likely.

**Seriously, these guys are some morons.  Logan Thomas: "I don't think anyone thinks they're better than anyone else.  I think they think they're better than us.  But really we're better than them."  Jack Tyler: "I don't wish ill on anyone.  I wish ill on UVA."  Little Shaney gets in on the dumb-hypocrite action in another article, too.  Skool is grate!

Monday, November 25, 2013

bad attitude weekend review

Is it wrong that after the Miami game I wished the spread had been 18.5 instead of 20, so that idiots who were stupid enough to bet on UVA lost their money because we couldn't execute a simple extra point?

As if we didn't already have oh about a thousand data points proving what an undisciplined, fecklessly coached team Mike London has foisted upon our school, extra points turned into a penalty-fest this week.  UVA scored three touchdowns and fucked up the extra point on every single one of them - two false starts and a block.  And I don't blame special teams coach Larry Lewis for any of them, although one of the false starts was illegal procedure on the snapper.  So maybe that one.  The first false start was Ross Burbank, and it was Eric Tetlow blown backwards for the block; Burbank is a goddam veteran and should know better.

Then again, six false starts on the day mean there's plenty of that blame to go around.  Here we are, 11 games into the season, and that darn elusive snap count is still an unsolved puzzle.  11 games into the season and the quarterback still slings uncatchable frozen ropes to a target two feet above his receiver's head, and has the decision-making power of a welding robot besides.  If you believe what you read on message boards, and the writer of this particular nugget has much more credibility than the average blabbermouth, the "read-option" we've been running is called in advance from the sidelines.  As in, the hand-or-keep decision.  What has looked like stunningly poor decision-making from Watford is actually Watford executing what he's been told in advance - and he apparently has neither the gumption nor authority to override that when the given decision is so obviously a bad one.  Whatever goes on at football practice these days, I wouldn't call it "coaching."  I believe the preferred nomenclature is "ruining perfectly good football players."

The real shame here is that some really nice individual efforts are being lost in the pit of despair.  Anthony Harris's eight picks are an amazing number, even if one of them should've just been batted down.  Kevin Parks needs 74 yards to reach 1,000 for the season, and even if he doesn't get there he's already had the best season by a UVA running back since that last 1,000 yard season (Alvin Pearman in 2004.)  If he doesn't go 11 yards backwards this week, that is - entirely possible since VT's D-line is a wrecking crew and our O-line is incapable of blocking them.

The season will be at its merciful end in less than a week, in the same sense in which the clock ran out on the Oregon game, and when the team physically walks off the field (after having mentally walked off it two hours ago) to a tiny smattering of boos from the masochists that stayed through that whole mess, we can finally slam the coffin lid shut.  I'll then fire off a sarcastic letter to Craig Littlepage and receive a response along the lines of "we feel your pain and rest assured we blah blah fix it blah blah have higher goals for the program blah blah."  I'd say we could then bury this pathetic season, but that's not quite true - the rotting stench of its corpse will haunt the program for a few years.  Or at least over the summer; I can't picture going into the 2014 season with any optimism as long as Mike London is still making decisions.  All there is to look forward to is about a year and two weeks from now when eight more losses have entered themselves in the ledger and some ex-MAC wunderkind is promising to make it all better.

P.S. - Let me just answer a question from a couple weeks ago, regarding which members of this coaching staff I'd retain for some continuity: NONE OF THEM.  Not even UVA legend Anthony Poindexter, who's such a good safety coach that fourth-year safety Rijo Walker tried to crash the backfield while a Miami receiver ran straight past him to the end zone - on 1st-and-25.  Larry Lewis has markedly improved the special teams, but that wasn't hard given the deplorable job Poindexter did with that unit.  Vincent Brown has probably done a better-than-average job, and the linebackers look good under Tenuta.  But why retain any of the stench of this season?  I'm sure there's a coach or two somewhere that can convince a high-schooler to play here besides Poindexter and Chip West, and then actually teach them to play football too.

This goes for everyone from the head coach on down through the assistants, the S&C crew (which is partially responsible for the fact that our interior O-line gets blown up every other play), and the GAs too.


I made some predictions about this game; let's see if my prognostication skills have recovered from the beating they took the past couple weeks.

-- David Watford has between 29 and 43 completions, giving him his second-most in a game this year. I reserve the right to prorate this out in case of early Greyson Lambert showing.  No need to prorate.  Watford would've had to attempt 72 passes in order to reach the minimum that I expected.

-- Lambert attempts 10+ passes.  He threw 19, and only needed a fraction of them to surpass Watford's miserable yardage output.

-- Dallas Crawford rushes for over 100 yards in Duke Johnson's absence.  Crawford ran for only 55, but this seems like as good a time as any to point out that we managed to lose despite running 91 offensive plays to Miami's 52.  Brent Urban's return made a difference, but that is also what happens when your offense serves up defensive touchdowns like Halloween candy.

-- Ant Harris gets another interception.  Truth.

-- Stephen Morris tops 300 passing yards.  No, but he came close-ish with 214, which isn't that close but it is considering he only had 13 completions.

-- Miami scores at least one touchdown of 65 yards or greater, through the air.  I'm counting the 62-yarder, because I can.
I go to 22-for-55 on the season, which is exactly 40%.  Also 7-4 overall but only 5-5-1 ATS since by some miracle, UVA covered.  I'd like it made known that I predicted Miami's score exactly, though.


Remarkably, there are still high school players who want to join this clownshow, and some of them played football this weekend too.  Let's catch up on those of our recruits still working their way through the high school playoffs:

Upland 30, Santiago 29: Jeffery Farrar intercepted a pass deep in Santiago territory that set up a touchdown and a 16-3 lead that Upland needed all of in the quarterfinal win.

Dacula 28, Peachtree Ridge 21: Jordan Ellis ran for 132 yards but was held off the scoreboard in Peachtree Ridge's season-ending loss.**

Forest Park 27, Varina 18: Donovan Dowling had a few big catches, but Varina's season ends a little earlier than they're accustomed to.

Central Catholic 49, St. Petersburg Catholic 16 (Caanan Brown)
Oscar Smith 41, Grassfield 7 (Andrew Brown)
Woodgrove 49, Eastern View 7 (J.J. Jackson)

The results this week leave four teams alive, mostly in their respective semifinals.  Upland and Woodgrove (the latter in a quarterfinal) will have uphill battles; CCC and Oscar Smith are behemoths that will be expected to continue.  And in junior news, Juan Thornhill's Altavista also remains alive.

**I looked this up, and, disappointingly, this team is pronounced "da-CUE-la", not like Dracula minus the R.  Ur doin it wrong, Dacula.


On a programming note, this is Thanksgiving weekend.  Which means of course that I'm not writing anything on Thursday for you turkeys.  I'm pushing the VT game preview all the way up to tomorrow, so that I can wait for the results of the Tuesday basketball game to write a preview for Friday's one.  It's our big preseason tournament (such as it is) so it's worth a preview.  Not gonna get one for Sunday's game, though.  Wednesday's preview and then see you Monday.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

game preview: Miami

Date/Time: Saturday, November 23; 12:00


Line: Miami by 20

Record against the Canes: 5-5

Last meeting: UVA 41, Miami 40; 11/10/12, Charlottesville

Last weekend: UVA bye; Duke 48, Miami 30

Injury report:


OUT - OL George Adeosun, CB Demetrious Nicholson, TE Mario Nixon, WR Canaan Severin, S Wil Wahee



PROBABLE - CB Maurice Canady, CB Kelvin Rainey, DT Brent Urban


OUT - DB Artie Burns, WR Philip Dorsett, LB Alex Figueroa, RB Duke Johnson, OL Hunter Knighton




(As with Georgia Tech, I'm quite sure that Miami is perfectly healthy aside from the players who can't go at all.  No bumps, bruises, or sprains to be found.)

So I guess I have to go write about football some more.  I was sort of enjoying the little hiatus.  That's only half a joke.  This has been the kind of season that really makes you question your involvement in the team and wondering if your Saturdays wouldn't be better spent doing almost anything else.  You'll forget about all that next August, of course, but for now, sanity and happiness dictate that you spend the time putting up the Christmas lights or something.

-- UVA run offense vs. Miami run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 184 carries, 796 yards, 4.3 ypc, 10 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 47 carries, 267 yards, 5.7 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
152.7 yards/game, 3.67 yards/attempt
98th of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

Miami defense:
172.5 yards/game, 4.19 yards/attempt
67th of 125 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)

I suppose if there's any drama remaining in this season, Kevin Parks's quest for 1,000 yards might provide some.  He's 204 yards away with two games left, so it's not totally out of reach.  It's going to be hard, though; VT's defense is VT's defense, and Miami's isn't too shabby either.  It's a fairly remarkable stat that the 11th-best run defense in the conference is just a shade outside the top half nationally.  (And the conference's 10th-best is well inside it.)

Miami hadn't allowed a game of over 200 rushing yards to a non-Georgia Tech team until just last week, when Duke shredded them.  Even if Duke is 8-2, nobody wants to allow that kind of performance against them, so this might have the makings of a classic motivated rebound game.

Leading the defense is linebacker Denzel Perryman, with 91 tackles this season; another linebacker, Jimmy Gaines, is second with 64.  But the guy who probably presents the most threat to UVA's porous offensive line is defensive end Shayon Green, who has 7.5 run-game TFLs.  He'll likely present a particular threat to David Watford's running attempts.

So I don't expect to see much room.  Consider the Duke game a blip; that game alone caused the Canes to drop, like, 30-odd places in the national run-defense rankings.  (Thus illustrating the dangers of relying too heavily on them, even this late in the season.)  The UVA run game is a little better than it appears, because Watford is often sacked and has poor running instincts.  Handing it off has always been a more productive play.  Still, I'd be surprised to see Parks top 70 yards.

-- UVA pass offense vs. Miami pass defense

David Watford: 221/379, 58.3%; 1,974 yards, 7 TDs, 12 INTs; 5.21 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 36 rec., 305 yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Parks: 34 rec., 305 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
212.6 yards/game, 5.0 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

Miami defense:
228.0 yards/game, 7.4 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 12th of 14 (ACC)

Baghdad Bob got ahold of the UVA Football tweetster account this week and built an infographic that used some stats (almost exclusively his 221 completions) to try to make David Watford look like the Next Coming.  Naturally it was met with mockery and disdain, and that was just from the UVA fans.  Who kindly pointed out the little issue of having won only two games.

Watford is likely to rack up a whole bunch more completions this week, which will lead mainly to another five-touchdown loss and an updated infographic.  But Miami has been complicit lately in pass defense.  You might expect Jameis Winston and perhaps even Bryn Renner to have terrific games; you wouldn't ever peg Logan Thomas for 25-of-31 for 366 yards.  That's a surprise and a half.

From a playmaking standpoint, Miami actually does well against the pass.  Safety Rayshawn Jenkins and CB Tracy Howard have three picks each, although nobody has more than five break-ups.  Nobody has more than 3.5 sacks, either, but overall the Canes have 26, which is good enough for 25th in the country.

But they sure do allow completions.  So Watford will probably rack them up.  They might all be screens, swing passes, and a heavy dependence on Jake McGee, but the completions will probably be there.  At this point, though, that yards-per-attempt is what it is.  I had hopes that might creep up to the mid-sixes range by the end of the season, but no.  I also had hopes Greyson Lambert might start in order to give him a small head-start on the inevitable repeat competition next year, but also no.  Mike London is hopelessly tied to making the exact opposite mistake from previous seasons.

-- Miami run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
Dallas Crawford: 96 carries, 446 yards, 10 TDs
Gus Edwards: 40 carries, 220 yards, 3 TDs

Miami run offense:
180.0 yards/game, 5.16 yards/attempt
24th of 125 (national), 4th of 14 (ACC)

UVA run defense:
183.2 yards/game, 4.55 yards/attempt
84th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

Brent Urban is back!  Duke Johnson is out!  That alone ought to tilt the matchup in UVA's favor.... or might have, if we'd been writing this five or six weeks ago.  Miami still has a stable of solid backs; Dallas Crawford has done a good job this season when playing in relief of Johnson, and Gus Edwards is an absolute load at 6'2", 225, and will probably see his field time increase as time goes on; particularly when Miami is not playing from behind.  Which they're not likely to do on Saturday.

Still - this game might be a little petri dish of sorts.  UVA's slide from mediocre but still reasonably hopeful to pitiful oblivion coincided neatly with Urban's injury, sustained against Maryland.  Losing Demetrious Nicholson had something to do with that too, but defensive line play hasn't been even close to the same without Urban.  It'll be interesting to see if his presence in the lineup will help prevent those six-consecutive-touchdown runs our opponents like to go on.

I'm not really that hopeful, of course; when Urban was playing, the team was much more fully invested in the outcome of the game.  He'll be fired up and ready to go, but have his teammates checked out some?  Probably.  And I doubt we're looking at the 100% real deal here; the fact that Urban can play doesn't mean he's in preseason shape.  I expect this game to still be fairly ugly in this department.

-- Miami pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Stephen Morris: 156/263, 59.3%; 2,358 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs; 8.97 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Allen Hurns: 45 rec., 839 yards, 5 TDs
Herb Waters: 28 rec., 405 yards, 5 TDs

Miami offense:
278.2 yards/game, 9.2 yards/attempt
8th of 125 (national), 2nd of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
234.3 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
69th of 125 (national), 9th of 14 (ACC)

Another key returner for UVA's defense: Maurice Canady, coming back from a medical issue that Doug Doughty reported to be kidney bleeding.  Yeah, OK, I guess it's alright if you sit out for that.  Can't really say all is well with his likely return, though; UVA faces one of the more potent passing offenses they've faced all year.

UVA's challenge starts with a senior quarterback, who's occasionally prone to throwing interceptions, but outweighs them with real production.  Stephen Morris's favorite target by far is Allen Hurns, a deadly big-play threat; he averages 18.6 yards a catch and has a pair of 80-yard TDs this season.  Herb Waters and Stacy Coley both command attention as well and keep the field open for Hurns.  And Clive Walford is a very good tight end, rounding out Morris's ammo supply.

If Canady weren't coming back I'd look at Drequan Hoskey and Tim Harris trying to cover this gang and mark down about 60 points for Miami.  UVA can more effectively use a nickel package now - Kelvin Rainey was doing an OK job as the nickel corner, but the added depth will be much appreciated.  Still, this bodes ill.  I mean, we're kind of jaded to the idea anymore, but Miami does a really nice job of protecting Morris and for every good play our guys make, Miami will probably turn it around with a 25-yarder.  I suspect Morris will find a way to deliver the ball to Anthony Harris's hands once at some point, but it's not like that'll be a huge obstacle.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 3
UVA pass offense: 2
UVA run defense: 4
UVA pass defense: 1.5

Average: 2.63

-- Outlook

A commenter this week called Miami a team in "free-fall."  While the optimism about our opponent is admirable, if a three-game losing streak is a free-fall I don't want to know what a seven-game losing streak is.  Speaking of streaks, UVA actually happens to be on a three-game streak of the winning variety against the Canes.  We're 5-2 against them since 2006, and 2-1 on the road; Miami seems to be the exception to the rule that UVA teams blow chunks on the road.  But you don't have a historically bullshit season like this one without breaking every pattern of success you once had.  If our opponent is in free-fall, we're the downy-soft pillowy cushion at the bottom.

-- Prediction summary

-- David Watford has between 29 and 43 completions, giving him his second-most in a game this year.  I reserve the right to prorate this out in case of early Greyson Lambert showing.

-- Lambert attempts 10+ passes.

-- Dallas Crawford rushes for over 100 yards in Duke Johnson's absence.

-- Ant Harris gets another interception.

-- Stephen Morris tops 300 passing yards.

-- Miami scores at least one touchdown of 65 yards or greater, through the air.

Final score: Miami 45, UVA 13

-- Rest of the ACC

North Carolina vs. Old Dominion - 12:00 - ODU seems bound and determined to play as many of our recruiting rivals as they can.

Duke @ Wake Forest - 12:00 - Duke needs this one to stay in contention for the ACC CG, unless they think counting on UVA to beat VT next week is a viable strategy.

Clemson vs. The Citadel - 12:00 - As you'll see in a few lines here, the ACC is starting to pick up on the SEC strategy of waiting til the end of the season to play the cupcake games.

NC State vs. East Carolina - 12:30 - The Pack are likely to finish this season 5th out of 5 I-A teams in the state.

Pittsburgh @ Syracuse - 12:30 - The Newcomer Bowl.  Winner goes actual bowling; loser probably won't.

Georgia Tech vs. Alabama A&M - 1:30 - You see what I mean about the cupcakes.

Florida State vs. Idaho - 3:30 - You still see what I mean about the cupcakes.

Boston College @ Maryland - 3:30 - Jockeying for position on the bowl selection pecking order.

Bye: Virginia Tech

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

the recruit: Evan Butts

Name: Evan Butts
Position: TE
Hometown: Philly-ish, PA
School: Episcopal Academy
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 225

24/7: 85, three stars; #44 TE, PA #32
ESPN: 75, three stars; #27 TE-Y, PA #31, East #141
Rivals: 5.5, three stars; PA #31
Scout: three stars; #40 TE

Other offers: Boston College, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Navy, South Florida, Ohio, Army, Temple, Buffalo, UMass, Florida Atlantic, assorted FCS

The last time the coaching staff landed a dedicated tight end - as opposed to an athlete later converted into one - was nearly four years ago.  That was when Zach Swanson, whom Stanford had more or less dropped a month or so before Signing Day, was hunting around for a landing spot and found a mutual fit at Virginia.  So it wasn't really even totally on purpose, what with Mike London being less than two months into the job.

So for a school that prides itself somewhat on turning out high-level tight ends, it's nice to find one that's not a converted something else.  Evan Butts plays defensive end as well for Episcopal, no less than you'd expect from a best-athlete-on-the-team type and a guy with a tight end build.  He's kind of a one-trick pony at DE, though; nearly all his highlights showed the same move.  Tight end it is.

Butts's strength, really, is his strength, which was his move at DE (shove the blocker backwards enough to create a space to get around toward the ball, a thing which won't work in college) and which should serve him well as a blocker on offense.  ESPN says he's not a fast player and that's backed up by those highlights, which almost never have him breaking away from the pack.  He's very comfortable in a crowd, though, with just enough quicks to separate enough to get open, and he's kind of gangly, which helps him reach for slightly-off passes and compensates somewhat for the fact that he's only 6'4", slightly on the short side for a TE.

The guru rankings here are remarkably consistent with each other and with Butts's offer list.  What you see there is way on the high end of the consistency scale.  Butts toured some of the various program camps this past summer and earned a couple offers that way; BC, for one.  UVA's camp was the final stop on that tour.  Not that surprising, when you think about it; Episcopal is part of the Inter-Academic League in the Philly suburbs, an association at least as well known for lacrosse talent as football.  UVA is a destination school to a lot of students there, and the schools are all top-notch private schools.

So unlike many recruits, we ought to be able to pretty easily tell what we're getting here.  A future all-ACC player - probably not.  A future dependable cog - most probably.  Zach Swanson's career path is a terrific guide, albeit hopefully without the ill-advised detour to fullback.  Swanson also came in at 225 pounds and needed the first three years of his career to add the necessary bulk for TE.  He's 30 pounds heavier now, and is easily the team's best blocking tight end as well as a perfectly legitimate receiving threat with 17 catches, a little under two per game.

It remains to be seen how Rob Burns and Mario Nixon develop at tight end, but since Swanson and Jake McGee are juniors, Butts is easily redshirtable.  You never know anymore the way the coaches do things, but it seems likely.  Afterwards Butts's playing time will probably depend on his physical development, and since 30 pounds don't come quickly, we may need to wait a little.  What will get Butts on the field faster than his tight end skills is his skill as a long-snapper, something he does very well.  Matt Fortin is a senior next year along with McGee and Swanson, so even if Butts doesn't play much on offense as a redshirt freshman, he'll have a role, and an important one, and better yet, the coaches don't have to fill a roster spot with a guy who can long-snap and long-snap only. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

weekend review

This is a good Monday for looking back at season previews; specifically, bowl eligibility predictions.  This is because Boston College won their sixth game of the season this Saturday, fairly ruthlessly stomping NC State to both gain bowl eligibility and end NC State's chances of same.  I get to crow since I'm damn near positive I'm the only prognosticator who called this.  (BC, that is.)  Since there's no game predictions to look back on this week, how'm'I doing on the season overall?

I said that four teams would fail to make eligibility: Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, and Maryland.  One has (Maryland) and one (Wake Forest) probably will not - they play Duke and Vanderbilt to finish the season.**  Of the conference newcomers, one is guaranteed to go, since they play each other this coming weekend and are both 5-5.  The loser will have a tough but not impossible time making it, having to beat either BC (Cuse) or Miami (Pitt) in the final week.  So I'll probably be two for four in picking non-eligible teams.

Picking certain teams like FSU and Clemson to go bowling are not worth taking credit for, but I'd say the most likely outcome is that I get eight of ten bowl-eligible teams correct, calling FSU, Clemson, GT, BC, VT, Duke, Miami, and UNC and miss on two (NC State and UVA.)  Also, unless something goes totally haywire I'll get to claim FSU for the ACC title when 80% of the media picked Clemson.

Then there's the Coastal Conference title.  If Duke wins out, they get to go to the ACCCG, which I'm like whaaaaaaaaat.  But I don't think there's a scenario in which my original pick, UNC, can go.  In fact all roads lead to VT except in two cases: 1) Duke winning out or 2) a really tortured and ridiculously unlikely scenario that includes a Mike London win over VT.  So I went out on some limbs; that one broke.

**And how screwed up is college football when Duke and Vanderbilt are considered insurmountable obstacles to bowl eligibility?


Senior Seasons moves into high school playoff season, with seven of our eleven recruits in action this week:

Peachtree Ridge 59, Lassiter 20: Earlier this season, Jordan Ellis set a school record with five touchdowns in a game.  The record didn't last long, because he scored six this weekend, and racked up 262 yards besides. 

Upland 21, South Hills 14 (Jeffery Farrar)
Central Catholic 47, Bishop Verot 0 (Caanan Brown)
Oscar Smith 35, Bayside 0 (Andrew Brown, Quin Blanding)
Varina 26, Woodbridge 21 (Donovan Dowling)
Woodgrove 45, Loudoun County 7 (J.J. Jackson)

Handy wins, then, for many of our players, and wins for all but Quin Blanding and Bayside, who were predictably mowed down by the Oscar Smith juggernaut.  On the plus side for the Marlins, that was Oscar Smith's second-smallest margin of victory all season.

And, though we're not officially tracking it here since that would be Junior Seasons, Juan Thornhill and Altavista advanced in the first round as well, way down in 1A.


Lastly, you're not a fan if you don't read the ESPN puff piece on Joe Harris.  Let's face it: one major measure of relevance as a program is if ESPN is doing large features on your players.  As capitulatory as that sounds to the hegemonic obelisk of the WWL.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the situation

Big trouble in little Charlottesville requires that I chime in with something resembling an official position on the football team and its direction.  Not one to mince words, I, so here's the foundation of that official-ish position: this team sucks far worse than my most wildly pessimistic preseason estimates.  And what's worse, it appears to be quitting on its coach.  Is there any way to know that for sure?  No.  And I make it absolutely a point to never question the team's effort unless given very, very good reason to.  London gave me very good reason to in the way he answered the question about effort during the Clemson game.  When they follow that up by not being remotely competitive during any minute from 1 to 60 against UNC, I have a tough time ignoring the obvious.

Mike London's strength as a coach is motivation.  He can't manage a game for shit.  His roster management is pretty lame.  What he can do is motivate the heck out of just about anyone he meets, which is the source of his recruiting skills.  If Mike London can't motivate a team, there's nothing left.

The shit state of the football team has fans calling for various firings.  From just a totally unscientific reading of message boards, I would say that about half want London gone at the end of this year.  Those who would call for his firing right now but have resigned themselves to one more year of this based on the two-year contracts for the new set of assistants probably account for another one-quarter to one-third.  30% to 40% want Craig Littlepage fired.  And 95% want Jon Oliver fired; the other 5% are weird.

You might be wondering where I stand on all this and what I'd do if I were king.  Glad you asked.

-- First, I'd bench David Watford.  At this point there is no possible way of avoiding a quarterback competition that starts the moment the offseason begins.  So this is less about benching Watford and more about giving us (and the coaching staff) some data points by which to evaluate Greyson Lambert.  A little bit more of a level playing field for the competition, in other words.  We've already seen how quarterbacks can play better or worse depending on how they're used; simply letting Lambert mess around a little in garbage time isn't an evaluation.

-- I'd give London his one more year, based on the idea that just maybe it takes a little while for the new coordinators to get their systems settled in.  Plus it's not like the defense has sucked all year.  Losing Brent Urban and both starting cornerbacks pretty much killed it.  Now, should the defense be so dependent on these three players that it turns to soppy mush when they leave?  No.  Not one bit.  But the smallest of benefits of the doubt will be given here, and London should be kept around long enough to see if he can engineer a quick turnaround.

-- That leash, however, should be mightily short.  This team needs eight or nine wins next year.  And it needs to pile them up early; a 1-3, 2-4 type of start, or 3-3 even, should be the end of the road.  We have a great interim-coach candidate in Tom O'Brien.  And I am, by the way, fucking sick of hearing, "that's not how Virginia does business."  In reference to midseason firings, that is.  That has always been the end of the argument, too, as if that's a reason.  It's a trash argument.  Not one iota of harm to UVA's reputation would result from it.  USC fired Lane Kiffin midseason, Texas fired their DC midseason (and both saved their seasons in doing so) and not one human being on this planet called them sleazy for doing it.  I'm all for holding ourselves to a higher pedestal of behavior; shunning midseason firings does not qualify and does not make anyone think, gee, there's a school that does things the right way.

The only context in which this argument makes sense (and it has not always been presented in this context) is, "It's not realistic to think it'll happen, so we need to let London go now in order to avoid the painful lame duckery that next season will inevitably become."  Fine.  Just stop telling me we shouldn't do any midseason firings.  We damn well should if we keep London and still suck next year.

-- Lastly, whatever Jon Oliver's duties are outside football, reassign him to those.  I doubt he'll be fired outright.  In fact, I have this ugly suspicion he's being groomed for the AD job.  I don't know how capable an administrator he is behind the scenes; he must be doing something right somewhere or he wouldn't have lasted this long.  But he makes football worse.  Actually, I doubt anything at all will happen to his job and he'll continue to be allowed to make decisions for the football program that belong to the head coach, but we can dream.

On the plus side, at least the Oregon game didn't cost us a bowl trip, right?

There's certainly no one thing that can be done to fix anything.  The fact is, firing Oliver wouldn't make the program better.  The only thing that can make a program good or bad is the coaching staff.  Players win games, and coaches select and teach the players.  If Oliver is perceived as a meddlesome influence, it might reduce the chances of hiring a decent coach, but you still might get a good coach - and you still might get a bad one without him.

I think the above represents more patience with the leadership than the average UVA fan has right now.  That could change if the last two games are disasters.  I'm fully expecting a 2-10 season, but if the journey there involves two more pathetic blowouts, I can't promise I won't write a burn-it-down post charged with emotion and not rationality.

really late weekend review

I suppose propriety dictates I say some stuff about last night's VCU game.  Fine then:

-- Some folks are calling it an ugly game.  All the fouls and such.  The clock screw-ups didn't help, but I like college basketball for all the different styles of play.  Truth is, you see one NBA game, you've seen 90% of them.  College lets two wildly distinct styles clash, and this was a perfect example.  UVA was sped up faster than it wanted to be, even in the halfcourt, and VCU could not often set their press such as they'd like because UVA's defense was too good.  Whatever you call that game, it wasn't "havoc," but VCU still found a way to impose its will at times.  Give me a highly competitive game like that one over the ballet that some people seem to demand out of their hoops, I don't care how many fouls you have to call.

-- Is it possible to have such a massive free-throw advantage and still find the refereeing slanted too far towards the other team?  I think so.  It takes more than one crappy call to get Tony Bennett riled up, and riled up he was when Anthony Gill got called for a foul he didn't commit.  Tony had to pull him, for reasons of three fouls early in the second half, but it was plain he didn't fault Gill.  I could even read his lips as he sent Gill off with a pat on the back: "that's good D."

-- London Perrantes will probably be the starting point guard eventually this season.  There's no hesitancy on Tony's part to put him in for important minutes.  Tony did not do the same with Teven Jones (whose nine minutes against VCU, by the way, I mostly liked) last year at all.  I don't think Malcolm Brogdon is doing badly, but he's not really a natural.  You might think that Jones could work his way into the lineup as the backup PG, and he just might; the barrier to that is that Tony appears to want to play Brogdon quite a bit.  So what, you ask.  Well, playing Brogdon exclusively at the 2 means squeezing Joe Harris and Justin Anderson.  A lineup with a point guard, Brogdon at the two, plus Harris and Anderson, that obviously leaves room for only one of our very talented frontcourt four.  Or, you know, sitting Harris or Anderson.  Giving Brogdon point guard minutes means not having to choose as much between him, Joe, and Justin.

-- Not gonna blame the loss on free-throw shooting when VCU was 6-for-15 at the line.  You can't say "if we'd shot better but VCU has to shoot just as badly."  On the other hand, hitting a couple more threes would've been nice.

At any rate, moving on.  Losing is bad and all, but there's a winning streak ahead, a tournament of sorts, and a chance to pick up some momentum going into the Wisconsin game - a team which just knocked off highly-rated Florida, so they're no schmucks.


News and such:

-- Soccer tournaments: Unfortunately the ladies didn't make it through the ACC tournament, but they earned a #1 seed in the NCAA tourney anyway.  As if there was any doubt of that.  In fact all four NCAA #1 seeds are ACC teams.  UVA hosts St. Francis (PA) on Friday.

-- Every damn year.  For the sixth season in a row, the men eliminated Wake Forest from the ACC tournament.  You might think I'm kidding, and I'm not, and one of those years was the national championship year when the Hoos booted Wake from the ACC tournament and then just for giggles also ousted the Deacons from the NCAAs.  Could you imagine if in something more visible like basketball we lost to the same team in the ACC tournament every single year since 2008?  Oh, and most of the time, including this season, we've been the underdog seed; 6 against 3, this year.

The next step is also on Friday, where UVA will take on Notre Dame in a game broadcast on ESPN3.

-- VT's nine-strikes-and-you're-out policy finally caught up to Cody Journell, whose many, many brushes with raging stupidity finally exhausted Frank Beamer's patience.  Journell, you'll remember, broke into someone's house, using a BB gun, (to steal his weed back, as he amazingly admitted to police) and was given the services of slimy fixer Jimmy Turk to get his felony breaking and entering knocked down to a misdemeanor so Tech could continue to claim zero tolerance for felonies.  Then he opened a can of pepper spray "by accident" in a BW3.  Then he was suspended for unknown foolishness, earlier this season.

Every college team, including UVA, has players do dumb things that get the police involved.  Some just are OK with that.

-- The ACC hoops tournament is in Greensboro this season and next, but the ACC announced that in 2015-2016 it'll be in Washington, DC, which I'm sure has nothing to do with the sudden lack of presence in that area when Maryland leaves.  Regardless of the reason, it'll be nice to have it anywhere but NC for once and even nicer to have it close by our fanbase.

-- The 2014 recruiting board will be updated in just a second here, but interestingly (especially for lean times such as these) the 2015 board, when it debuts, will already have a commitment on it in the form of Altavista athlete Juan Thornhill.  A commitment likely to stick even if the coach he signs for isn't Mike London, as Thornhill is a Virginia fan.

-- ESPN's Lions writer does this thing where he asks different Lions a different question every week.  This week it was: what would you want a free year's supply of.  Kevin Ogletree is no dummy at all: gasoline.  It reminded me of another anecdote from way back that illustrates the naturally high intelligence of a UVa grad: I remember seeing a little local TV feature about the Lions rookies having to sing a training camp song for the veterans.  Germane Crowell saw his fellow rookies get mercilessly booed no matter what they sang or how well they sang it, so his choice was the Star-Spangled Banner, figuring (correctly) that nobody would boo that.


I said last week there would be a recruiting board update when it became necessary, and it became necessary.

-- Added ATH Donovan Dowling to orange.  I have said, have I not, that Mike London would probably fill out this recruiting class the same way he always does: with an instate athlete-type who projects to either WR or DB and who had not yet received any offers worth committing to.  The Varina pipeline comes through here to fulfill the prophecy.  No relation, by the way, to Ras-I.

-- Added DE Cory Jones to yellow.  A late-late-bloomer from DC that regional coaches are keeping an eye on.

-- Removed RB Madre London (Michigan State) from yellow.

Chances are at this point that recruiting consists almost entirely of the guys above the yellow only, with the possible exception of Cory Jones.


Senior Seasons to wrap this up:

Upland 24, Rancho Cucamonga 6: The article didn't say any names, but it sounds very much as if Jeffery Farrar was suspended for this one for a fight during last week's game.  Upland is 7-3.

North Gwinnett 44, Peachtree Ridge 22: Jordan Ellis's touchdown and 61 yards were nowhere near enough to prevent the blowout loss.  Peachtree Ridge is 7-3.

Haverford School 27, Episcopal 7: Evan Butts caught a 73-yard touchdown, but that was his team's only score.  Episcopal is 7-3.

Bayside 27, First Colonial 7: Quin Blanding scored two touchdowns - one running, one receiving -  and Bayside snuck into the playoffs...but all they did was win the honor of being the first team to be reamed by Oscar Smith.  Bayside is 6-4.

Central Catholic 37, Anclote 14 (Caanan Brown) - CCC is 8-2.
Shiloh 31, Central Gwinnett 14 (Darious Latimore) - Central is 2-8.
Jordan Matthews 37, Cummings 6 (Will Richardson) - Cummings is 3-8.
Oscar Smith 60, Hickory 7 (Andrew Brown) - Oscar Smith is 10-0.
Woodgrove 35, Loudoun Valley 0 (J.J. Jackson) - Woodgrove is 7-3.
King George 27, Chancellor 0 (Steven Moss) - Chancellor is 1-9.
Highland Springs 45, Varina 35 (Donovan Dowling) - Varina is 8-2.

That wraps up the regular season, and it's the end of the line for four teams.  Episcopal plays in their own little private-school league, which doesn't do playoffs.  Central Gwinnett, Cummings, and Chancellor had losing seasons, big-time-style, and will not make the playoffs.  (Though, thanks to VHSL realignment, being 1-9 hasn't stopped some teams from being in the playoffs.  Wut?)

Oscar Smith will host Bayside, so at least one season will continue next week (probably Oscar Smith's) and one will end (probably Bayside's.)  The only other team to play in a playoff game and not host will be Peachtree Ridge.

Monday, November 11, 2013

game preview: VCU

Date/Time: Tuesday, November 12; 7:00


Record against the Rams: 10-1

Last meeting: UVA 86, VCU 70; 11/13/98, Richmond

Last game: UVA 61, JMU 41 (11/8); VCU 96, ISU 58 (11/8)


UVA: 63.1 (#340)
VCU: 68.7 (#81)

UVA: 107.6 (#53)
VCU: 112.1 (#16)

UVA: 89.7 (#4)
VCU: 93.2 (#17)

UVA: .8901 (#15)
VCU: .8923 (#13)

Projected lineups:


PG: Malcolm Brogdon (9.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SG: Joe Harris (5.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
SF: Justin Anderson (5.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)
PF: Akil Mitchell (7.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
PF: Anthony Gill (13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 0.0 apg)


PG: Briante Weber (9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 8.0 apg)
SG: Rob Brandenburg (12.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.0 apg)
SG: Treveon Graham (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 3.0 apg)
PF: Juvonte Reddic (13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 apg)
PF: Terrance Shannon (14.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.0 apg)

It's probably a good thing this game is so early.  UVA fans weary of the pitiful showings in Scott Stadium have something to distract them from football, and have headed indoors to sell out the JPJA.  Probably with a small assist from VCU fans, but something about a top-25 matchup essentially for supremacy of the state has got UVA fans interested in basketball.  If the season goes as everyone expects, both of these teams will be in the NCAAs without a great deal of worrying about bubbles and such, but that also means both teams are good enough that the winner will have a really nice shiny prize on their resume.  Always good in the seeding discussions.

-- UVA on offense

All that running around VCU does requires a deep bench, and the Rams had 11 guys going 10 or more minutes in their season opener against Illinois State.  Which they won, handily.  Nobody played more than 25, which may have been a function of the blowout score as much as the VCU style.  But they really do have no qualms about frequent substitution.  One of the upshots of that: they won't be as bothered as a lot of teams if they get in foul trouble from the tighter emphasis on hand-checks.

Last year, in the tournament, Michigan showed the whole world how to beat the VCU press: get a good point guard and a big man who can run the floor.  Elite players like Trey Burke don't come around too often, and try as I might I can't find one on our roster, but then, we don't need to crush the Rams into fine powder like Michigan did, either.  And we do have floor-running bigs.  Probably not quite on the level (or size) of Mitch McGary, but we can rotate them just about as quickly as VCU can.

The point guard is the question.  Malcolm Brogdon's abilities against this kind of press are a mystery, and London Perrantes has one college game under his belt.  Joe Harris is a good ballhandler but gives up quite a bit of quickness to VCU's guards.  Justin Anderson's athleticism could come in handy; breaking the press is a team effort, after all.  Not that he'd play the point in a halfcourt offense, but one does not get picky when press-breaking.

Once settled, UVA should have a size advantage.  VCU does have forwards to match the size of ours, for the most part, but in the backcourt, there are plenty of smaller guards.  Brogdon may well be able to post up on a defender, and Harris should have little trouble shooting over them.  While VCU does have some bigger guards - primarily Treveon Graham and bench player Jordan Burgess - UVA will usually have larger guards in the game, and VCU will usually not.  VCU's halfcourt game suffers from simplicity at times since they work so much on the press and depend on it for points.  And of course, Tony often preaches that he lets his teams run when the time is right to run.... but he also has no aversion whatsoever to draining every drop from the shot clock to limit another team's frantic pace.

-- UVA on defense

The best way to break a press is not to let them press, right?  Don't let them score and they can't press - that's the usual mantra.  VCU will go right into the press from their halfcourt offense, so the actual key is defending and following it up with a good outlet pass.

VCU is tough to analyze on offense because they get so many easy points from their press.  It causes everyone's numbers to look really shiny.  Offensively, the best players are Treveon Graham and forward Juvonte Reddic.  Graham is a biggish wing, and can score a lot of different ways; Reddic is a low-post threat that can match ours basket for basket.  The Rams will probably miss Darius Theus at the point; Briante Weber is decent enough but more of a threat on defense (he averaged nearly three steals a game last year.)

If Graham and Rob Brandenburg get hot from three, it could be a long night; there's not much that's more demoralizing than giving up a three, turning the ball over, and giving up another one right away.  Ouch.  UVA will likely lose if this happens no matter how well they break the press because of VCU's pick-me-up pace.

However, let's not forget that in the halfcourt, it's VCU that has to find ways to contend with UVA's stifling defense.  The more time we spend playing halfcourt ball, the better we're going to like it.  VCU's 38-point win over Illinois State was impressive; VCU should be equally wary of UVA's 93.9% defensive rebound rate against JMU and the fact that the Dukes only shot six free throws.

-- Outlook

This game is fairly easy to analyze.  If UVA can take care of the press with reasonable consistency, they'll probably win.  If not, they'll probably lose.  The thing I don't know, and nor does anyone really, is whether yes or no.  It's the early season and we're brimming with either bubbly optimism or laughable naivete, so let's go with yes.

Final score: UVA 65, VCU 59

Sunday, November 10, 2013

well that was stupid

I don't know what the hell possessed me the other day, but God forbid I ever again show an ounce of enthusiasm over this sad-sack bunch of poorly coached misfits.  David Watford is quoted saying, "We haven't been executing like we were before."  I'm sorry, when was that again?  I must have missed it.  I suppose it must have been VMI and maybe the first 20 minutes of Duke.  I'm not sure VMI counts.

And Mike London continues to be quoted as saying, "I need to coach better."  Well, yes, admitting you have a problem is more or less the first step, according to Alcoholics Anonymous.  London's been admitting this for months now, and then continues making decisions with his ass.  Sort of like an AA member stumbling in drunk to his 20th meeting in a row.

Case in point, obviously, is accepting a holding penalty to give UNC a 3rd and 15 instead of a 4th down.  The London explanation?  "It could have been fourth-and-5 and they kick the field goal or you take them back, blitz them, knock them back again."  Really?  You were counting on a 15-yard sack? That was the basis of your brilliant strategy?

I saw it jokingly suggested on TheSabre's forums that we should just forfeit the Miami game and spend all the extra prep time on VT.  Bad idea.  Giving this group of players more time with this incompetent coaching staff is likely to double the number of touchdowns we lose by.  The staff is going to be on the road recruiting next weekend.  My suggestion: Take an early start, and stay out late.  Send the players back to their high schools for two weeks - that way they can get their coaching from the guys who molded them into four-star prospects instead of the guys molding them into a 2-win juggernaut.  In this way maybe we will lose to Miami by 14 instead of 40.

It would be much easier to listen to the announcers patronize us with "Virginia fans just need to be patient" if the team weren't regressing mightily the more "coaching" they get.  You could maybe even brush off a seven-game losing streak and say "wait til next year" and use the youth excuse if these were close losses.  The patience line is a pander, not their real opinion - their real opinion came when they suggested that going down 14-0 after one quarter and small change would be the end of the game.  "This team sucks too bad to come back from that," was the suggestion, and damn if they weren't right.

Enjoy your Sunday.  I'm off to go watch old tapes of the Lions' 0-16 season under the illustrious Rod Marinelli so I can remember what a well-coached, disciplined football team looked like.


Prediction wise, I forgot to review them last week.  It doesn't matter: I didn't get any of them right this week or last.  So 19-of-40 turns into 19-of-49, plummenting below the 40% mark.  My overall predictions go to 5-4-1 ATS and 6-4 overall.

Tomorrow's post won't be the usual weekend review; that'll go Tuesday so I can preview the VCU game in a timely manner.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

game preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: Saturday, November 9; 12:30


Record against the Heels: 54-59-4

Last meeting: UNC 37, UVA 13; 11/15/12, Charlottesville

Last weekend: Clemson 59, UVA 10; UNC 27, NCSt. 19

Line: UNC by 13

Injury report:


OUT - OL George Adeosun, CB Maurice Canady, CB Demetrious Nicholson, TE Mario Nixon, WR Caanan Severin, CB Wil Wahee, OG Cody Wallace


QUESTIONABLE - CB Kelvin Rainey, DT Brent Urban


North Carolina:

Can't find one.

Welp, there's no real narrative for this week anymore.  Not for this season.  It's a shame when the season is so ruined beyond belief that the South's Oldest Rivalry means nothing except for UNC making a hell-bent run for bowl eligibility themselves.  They could get there; their schedule the rest of the way is pretty weak.  Not my concern though.  The only thing left as far as we're concerned: does the season continue to be a raging toxic disaster, or only a landfill tire fire?

-- UVA run offense vs. UNC run defense

Top backs:
Kevin Parks: 160 carries, 696 yards, 4.4 ypc, 9 TDs
Khalek Shepherd: 43 carries, 256 yards, 6.0 ypc, 1 TD

UVA offense:
157.22 yards/game, 3.76 yards/attempt
94th of 125 (national), 10th of 14 (ACC)

UNC defense:
204.13 yards/game, 4.41 yards/attempt
78th of 125 (national), 12th of 14 (ACC)

There are a lot of similarities between the Georgia Tech defense previewed a few weeks ago and this UNC crowd; the main one that makes me say this is that Carolina's numbers look bad, but they've basically been run over by good teams (Miami, say) and shut down bad ones.  Guess which one UVA is?

However - this is a bad thing of me to say, but it's probably true - the absence of Cody Wallace is probably a small net positive for the run game.  I'm sort of hard on Wallace, and it's only half fair because I actually do not tend see any deficiencies in his pass-blocking, but he also more or less epitomizes the line's inability to ever get any push in the run game.  Conner Davis isn't on the injury report, so it seems he'll start at guard and Luke Bowanko will stay at center, and we'll get to see quite a bit of Eric Tetlow as well.

Here's another positive: Kevin Parks playing in the state of North Carolina.  After the NC State game last year (a 33-6 UVA win, in case you forgot what that's like) Parks talked about being fired up to play in his home state, on account of none of the schools from there ever recruiting him.  His career stats tend to back him up.  He averages 4.5 yards a carry for his career and over 6 yards a carry when playing in the state of North Carolina.

Defensively, UNC is led by a pair of linebackers - their only linebackers since they run a 4-2-5 defense.  That would be Travis Hughes and middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer, who has worked his way up from walk-on to starter.  DE Kareem Martin is exactly the terror he was expected to be, recording 12.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks so far.  After that, the next four tacklers are DBs, but that's not really a strike against the Heels since they have that extra one on the field.

I'd posit that a small reason for the success of the linebackers, though, is that UNC's defensive tackles are not wildly impressive.  Tim Jackson is decent (at best) but Ethan Farmer is unproductive.  The ends are much stronger, with the aforementioned Martin and solid production out of the rotation at what UNC calls the "bandit" DE (weakside, basically) from Norkeithus Otis and Darius Lipford.

Since Parks is a between-the-tackles runner, and he brings that shoulder chip with him to his home state, there may be something of an advantage here.  I won't go so far as to say it's an overall, lasting type of thing.  More of a thing that we can take advantage of in stretches.  I don't think Parks will reach that 6-yard threshold from his earlier NC games, but with UVA attacking a less capable defensive middle than it's seen lately, there might be a little extra room for him to work.

-- UVA pass offense vs. UNC pass defense

David Watford: 207/349, 59.3%; 1,845 yards, 7 TDs, 10 INTs; 5.29 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Jake McGee: 33 rec., 277 yards, 2 TDs
Kevin Parks: 32 rec., 305 yards, 1 TD

UVA offense:
213.6 yards/game, 5.1 yards/attempt
125th of 125 (national), 14th of 14 (ACC)

UNC defense:
218.9 yards/game, 7.5 yards/attempt
88th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

There may be some favorable chances on this side of the ball, too.  A poop game last week dropped UVA's pass offense straight back to the very bottom of the barrel in the country, so weaknesses pointed out in opposing pass defenses should not always be construed as something we can take advantage of, but weaknesses are weaknesses all the same.

UNC has a few.  The pass rush is one.  With an NFL-bound talent like Kareem Martin, they ought to be better, but they don't otherwise get after the passer very aggressively.  Martin has 5.5 sacks and the other DE position has also accounted for 5.5, so Morgan Moses and Eric Smith both will be tested heavily.  If they can hold down the fort, though, Watford will have clean looks all day; UNC just doesn't send their linebackers very often and the DTs are no threat.

The defensive backs have some playmaking skill; safety Tre Boston has three picks and CB Tim Scott has two.  But Scott's counterpart Jabari Price has struggled some this year, and UNC's linebackers just aren't pass defenders.  If Steve Fairchild has any two-TE sets in his bag, this may be the game to try them out; lining up just one will probably mean UNC puts a safety on him, but two will leave them guessing as to which might head out for the pass.  (Not to mention the extra help on UNC's DEs.)

A quarterback for whom the game has not yet slowed down (hint: Watford) could really benefit from not having people up in his face all day.  Watford shows a lot of signs of simply rushing things based on the perception that the game just moves too quickly: he doesn't go through progressions well, he overthrows receivers, he hesitates in deciding whether he should bail on a play except for when he bails too early.  He should be afforded that extra half-second this weekend, and with a little luck things will click and he'll take advantage.

-- UNC run offense vs. UVA run defense

Top backs:
A.J. Blue: 70 carries, 266 yards, 3.8 ypc, 1 TD
Romar Morris: 49 carries, 214 yards, 4.4 ypc, 3 TDs

UNC offense:
108.38 yards/game, 3.00 yards/attempt
117th of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
181.22 yards/game, 4.51 yards/attempt
82nd of 125 (national), 13th of 14 (ACC)

UNC's running game is rather surprisingly unproductive.  Not one of the running backs has leapt up to lay a definitive claim to the job, and the depth chart lists four players like so: A or B or C or D.  There is no starter.  A.J. Blue is the biggest and perhaps this is why he leads in carries.  Romar Morris was the lead man for the lightning to Blue's thunder, but has never quite seized the job and has T.J. Logan and Khris Francis nipping at his heels.  None of these guys excite anyone.

The wrinkle, especially now that Bryn Renner is done for the season, is backup quarterback Marquise Williams.  Williams is also a fairly big guy (for a runner; for a passer, he's shortish) with a little bit of speed, and he's been used in most games this season as a change-of-pace quarterback who can do a little dual-threat action.

And of course, the most exciting news of the week, if you caught it on the injury report: Brent Urban.  If he plays - and I think he will - he may not be quite the slasher into the backfield that he was when healthy, but I'll take 75% of Urban over 100% of most of these guys.

UNC's way-low ranking in the run game should be taken with a slight grain of salt; much of that comes from piling up negative yards from sacking Bryn Renner.  They're not quite that bad.  But they're not real good, either.  The second caveat I offer is that they've played the good part of their schedule already; there could be improvement when they play us, Duke, etc.  However, the line is highly inexperienced at three of five positions, including both guards, and none of the running backs have put a jolt into anyone.  UNC's longest rushing play of the year is 26 yards.  Three UVA backs, plus Watford, can claim longer runs than that.  This is among the least dynamic run games in the country.

-- UNC pass offense vs. UVA pass defense

Marquise Williams: 40/66, 60.6%; 537 yards, 6 TDs, 3 INTs; 8.14 yards/attempt

Top receivers:
Eric Ebron: 44 rec., 669 yards, 3 TDs
Quinshad Davis: 32 rec., 476 yards, 7 TDs

UNC offense:
302.0 yards/game, 8.1 yards/attempt
37th of 125 (national), 7th of 14 (ACC)

UVA defense:
236.6 yards/game, 7.1 yards/attempt
66th of 125 (national), 11th of 14 (ACC)

I'm just going to start off right now by saying I have no idea what to expect.  Marquise Williams, see, is a redshirt sophomore like Watford, only he's thrown just 83 passes in his career.  This is a guy who had probably the best passing game of his career against Virginia Tech, only one of the elite passing D's in the country, and is coming off two pretty subpar games against BC and NC State.  To put that in perspective, BC gives up a whopping nine yards per attempt and NC State is the other winless team in the ACC.

Williams's two biggest sources of help are tight end Eric Ebron - a first-team all-ACC near-lock - and a tremendous mismatch at WR in Quinshad Davis.  Davis stands 6'4" and is a favorite red-zone target, and can break a big play as well.  UNC has a lineup of complementary receivers as well - Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe, and Sean Tapley command just enough attention to force teams not to focus on Davis and Ebron - but it's those top two that will burn you.

UVA's cornerbacks are still going to be DreQuan Hoskey and Tim Harris.  With Tra Nicholson out for the year and Maurice Canady having a tough time with a lingering medical problem that UVA won't disclose (but Doug Doughty did) that's how it is - and Harris came out of the Clemson game looking like Wile E. Coyote after a round with Acme dynamite.  Davis will be a problem for sure.

However, I'm inclined to think this game will hinge almost entirely on whether Williams is up for the starting job or not.  Jon Tenuta will look at the inexperience at QB - and the fact that UNC's line gives up more sacks than they should - and play Fun With Blitz Packages.  Williams will probably scramble out of trouble once or twice, much to our chagrin, but he just might also toss some ill-advised lobs somewhere.

-- Favorability ratings

UVA run offense: 4
UVA pass offense: 4
UVA run defense: 6
UVA pass defense: 5

Average: 4.75

-- Outlook

I am about to do something incredibly stupid.

-- Prediction summary

-- Kevin Parks averages between 5 and 5.5 yards per carry.

-- David Watford is not sacked.

-- Watford completes over 60%.

-- UNC's tailbacks run for less than 80 yards, combined.

-- If Marquise Williams completes less than 55% of his passes, UVA wins.

(I don't know why I'm doing this.  Maybe I'm counting on Parks's motivation; maybe I'm just stupid-happy to maybe - not even definitely, but maybe - have Brent Urban back; maybe I think Watford bounces back and has a good game; maybe I don't have faith in Marquise Williams; maybe I'm a hopeless moron.)

Final score: UVA 27, UNC 23

-- Rest of the ACC

Florida State @ Wake Forest - 12:00 - FSU will be sending embossed thank-you notes to Stanford this week.  Win out and they're a near-lock for a championship berth - and their next three weeks are Wake, Cuse, and Idaho.

Syracuse @ Maryland - 3:30 - The Terps take another stab at bowl eligibility; Cuse's postseason is very much in the balance as well.

Boston College @ New Mexico State - 3:30 - At New Mexico State?  At any rate, the Eagles have a very doable path to bowl eligibility, starting here.

NC State @ Duke - 4:00 - I'm being a jerk and rooting for Duke because if UVA goes 0-8 in the ACC I want company.

Virginia Tech @ Miami - 7:00 - VT still has a decent shot at the ACCCG, but it demands a win here.

Notre Dame @ Pittsburgh - 8:00 - I don't know why, but the Domers consider this a rivalry.

Byes: Georgia Tech, Clemson

Thursday, November 7, 2013

2013 hoops preview: ACC overview

UNC game preview coming tomorrow.  Tonight is the final touches on the year's basketball preview.  It's perhaps a little less comprehensive than you might hope from the title, but as you know by now, full previews come later.  After the end of football season.

Today is just a simple exercise using three preseason ranking systems.  Ken Pomeroy's is the old and venerable system, though it's been tweaked for this year.  Dan Hanner is in his second year doing a full projection for ESPN.  And TeamRankings also has a list of their own.  I'm not going to reproduce them all here except for one thing: here is the average of each ACC team's placements in the various systems:

1) Duke - 5
2) UNC - 11.67
3) Syracuse - 14.67
4) Virginia - 15
5) Pittsburgh - 24.33
6) Notre Dame - 28
7) Maryland - 42.67
8) Boston College - 52.33
9) Georgia Tech - 57.67
10) NC State - 79.33
11) Miami - 80.67
12) Florida State - 88.33
13) Clemson - 90.67
14) Wake Forest - 102.33
15) Virginia Tech - 150

The number following each team is their average national ranking.  Quick notes on that:

-- UVA beats Syracuse in two of the three projections, but KenPom is bullish enough on Cuse that their average just pips the Hoos.

-- There's a pretty clear hierarchy.  A top six forms, then a middle three, and a bottom six.  You could further subdivide the top six into a top four, and also further subdivide the bottom six into one really huge ball of suck and then five others.

-- Hanner is much less excited about the ACC than the other two.  The average national rank in KenPom is about 54, for TeamRankings about 53, and for Hanner about 61.  Mainly this is due to four outliers that Hanner thinks are worse than do the other two: BC, Miami, NC State, and Wake.  He's also the guy that has UVA 2nd in the ACC, though.  This makes his obviously the best ratings.

The next thing I did was to apply all these rankings to everyone's schedule.  Simply took a team's schedule and the rankings of the teams on it in each of the three systems, and added an RPI-like multiplier to each one.  An opponent played at home had its ranking multiplied by 1.25 to reflect home-court advantage; the road multiplier was 0.75.  I used the national ranking, not the ACC 1-15 rankings.  Example: FSU is ranked 105th by KenPom and UVA opens their conference schedule in Tallahassee, so that became 78.75 for strength-of-schedule ranking purposes.

The results are delightful.  I was going to bore you with a strength of schedule list for all three systems, plus the average, but UVA finishes in the same place in each one: Easiest.  So, just the average then.  Here's each team's strength of schedule using this average-rating system:

1) Virginia - 63.27
2) Miami - 60.87
3) Maryland - 60.54
4) Pittsburgh - 60.05
5) Duke - 58.36
6) UNC - 57.75
7) Boston College - 57.34
8) Clemson - 56.55
9) Florida State - 54.67
10) NC State - 54.13
11) Syracuse -53.29
12) Notre Dame - 53.23
13) Georgia Tech - 52.81
14) Wake Forest - 50.65
15) Virginia Tech - 50.49

Believe it or not, that's a big gap between easiest and second-easiest.  The teams we play twice are FSU, Maryland, VT, and ND.  VT sucks a ton; their ranking is so bad that teams playing them twice got an extra boost.  Getting the #12 and #15 teams in the league twice is helpful.  Maryland is middling, and only ND - which sits at the bottom of the upper echelon - is a dual threat.  Of its fellow top-four teams, UVA also gets Cuse and UNC at home, helping to mitigate their effect on the schedule.  Pitt and Duke are road trips, but Pitt is a clear and obvious fifth in all ranking systems.  And even though Duke is the consensus top team, the way I've done this biases the effect of playing the tip-top teams somewhat, in that it doesn't much matter whether you play them at home or away.  (But that's kind of like real life, too.)

Few other notes:

-- VT, obviously, has the toughest schedule because they don't get to play VT.  But Wake is surprisingly close, and actually comes in with the toughest schedule using only Hanner's system, and only TeamRankings as well.  Not a surprise since they play all their Tobacco Road rivals twice.

-- I'm a little disappointed the ACC didn't take my suggestion of forcing Maryland to play all their games on the road.  They and Miami have relatively easy paths as well.

-- Cuse and ND got kind of slammed.  Though they're two of the upper-level teams in the conference, they'll have noticeably tougher roads than either Duke or UNC, and UVA could well finish ahead of Cuse in the standings just for schedule reasons alone.  Pitt as well.

-- It underscores the need to do well in the non-conference stretch. Yes, the ACC is tough and should make us look pretty good no matter what.  (Assuming we win games.)  But it probably won't escape notice that we have the easiest schedule in the conference.  VT is going to be a drag on the RPI.  The path to success is well and smoothly paved, but it also puts on the pressure to succeed.