It wasn’t just coachspeak when Virginia football coach Mike London told me that there are no gimmes on the Cavaliers’ remaining schedule.
While most UVa fans should be content with a 2-1 record to date, especially the .500 record against Brigham Young and Oregon, where do the remaining wins come from?
There will be other opportunities for victories similar to Saturday’s trip to Pittsburgh, where the Cavaliers will be a 5 ½-point underdog (down from seven) as things stand.
But, how many times will they be favored over the remainder of the schedule? Probably when they play Duke in Charlottesville on Oct. 19 and certainly next week, when they entertain Ball State, UVa’s final non-conference opponent.
Certainly, the Cavaliers will be favored but nobody should be certain of a UVa win over Ball State.
Coming off a 9-4 season and a trip to the Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl in 2012, the Cardinals carry a 3-1 record into Saturday’s home game with Toledo.
Ball State has scored 40 points or more in lopsided victories over Illinois State, Army and Eastern Michigan, with the Cardinals’ only loss coming at North Texas State, 34-27.
Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning has thrown for 1,315 yards and has a 9-2 touchdown pass-interception ratio in four games.
London, the defensive coordinator when Virginia lost to visiting Western Michigan 17-10 in 2006, isn’t about to overlook a Mid-American Conference foe. UVa bowl teams had their hands full with Akron in 2002 (48-29) and Western Michigan in 2005 (31-19).
When I picked Virginia to go 5-7 this season, the victories were over BYU, VMI, Ball State, Duke and Georgia Tech.
That meant victories in five of eight home games, with no wins on the road. I thought the best chances for a road win were at Pitt at Maryland, where UVa has won three games in a row, but, at 4-0, the Terps are better than I anticipated.
If you were to pick the remaining games just on how the teams to date, I’d say Virginia Tech would not be a heavy favorite – or even a favorite at this point – for the regular-season finale in Charlottesville. But the mere sight of the Hokies at Scott Stadium has a way of bringing out the worst in the Cavaliers.
IN ANALYZING LAST week’s basketball recruiting, in which guard Robert Johnson picked Indiana over Virginia and others, I wrote or tweeted or said out loud d that I could not remember a Benedictine ever athlete picking the Cavaliers.
No sportswriters challenged me, but my wife, an ex-Richmonder, immediately pointed out that the Cavaliers signed tight end Patrick Estes out of Benedictine around the turn of the century.
Estes, if I’m interpreting back media guides correctly, came to UVa at the same time as future Mackey Award winner Heath Miller and actually played as a true freshman in 2001 while Miller was being redshirted. Miller had been a quarterback at Honaker High School.
Estes went on to play in the NFL as an offensive tackle.
What I’ve subsequently come to find out about the Johnson recruiting is that timing was the biggest factor working against the Cavaliers.
Virginia was aware of Johnson and liked him even before Johnson “blew up” on the summer-camp circuit, but the Cavaliers were reluctant to make an early scholarship offer because of their numbers.
They were looking at three available scholarships for the entering class of 2014, one of which already was committed to shooting guard B.J. Stith, now at Oak Hill.
With more grants at their disposal, the Cavaliers might have offered Johnson in the early spring. Instead, Virginia did not make an offer to Johnson until Taylor Barnette informed coach Tony Bennett in early July that he was leaving the UVa program.
Call it revisionist history if you want. Virginia routinely has not won out when recruiting against the likes of Indiana and North Carolina, even with in-state kids. But if the Cavaliers had been able to make the offer to Johnson in April, who knows what he would have said?