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Schedule Preview: September

Posted on August 20, 2018, in Football by Robert Elder.

This piece is a part of our 2018 football preview. To view other entries in the preview series, click here.

 

Counting down the days until the season kicks off, we're ready to start breaking down the schedule game-by-game, with summaries of each team we'll face and our confidence level in the Hoos to get that win. Today, we'll tackle September, with the October and November portions of the schedule following later this week. 

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Date: Saturday, September 1 st , 6:00 p.m.

RICHMOND

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

2017 Record:  6-5 (4-4 CAA)

Last Meeting:  September 3rd , 2016 – Richmond 37, Virginia 20

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: N/A 

CFN Preseason Ranking: N/A

 

Strengths: Offensive skill positions. Richmond is returning three all-conference performers at wide receiver in first-teamer Dejon Brissett and second teamers Tyler Wilkins and Cortrelle Simpson. Richmond also returns their top-four leading rushers from a season ago.

Weaknesses: Quarterback Kyle Lauletta graduated and was drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants. A junior two years ago, Lauletta went 24-for-35 for 337 yards and three touchdowns in Charlottesville, and he earned CAA Offensive Player of the Year as a senior. Richmond’s offense will have a new feel in 2018, with more focus on the running game and quarterback options than the spread-it-out system with Lauletta. Joe Mancuso is perhaps the favorite to start in in 2018 – and Mancuso led the Spiders to the FCS Quarterfinals in 2016 following an injury to Lauletta – but Virginia has a chance to rattle a new FCS quarterback in week one. Mendenhall absolutely must take advantage.

 

Summary Thoughts: I’ll start by saying I absolutely love that this is a 6 p.m. start time. Opening weekend of college football, all day tailgating, that evening shine on the players helmets – there’s few things better.

I start with that digression because Richmond is a FCS football team coming off a 6-5 record last season. There’s never any excuse to lose at home to FCS schools, and Mendenhall should know better than anyone that an upset here can derail all positive momentum that was gained heading into the season. The final score might be closer than preferred as Virginia tinkers with its new-look offense, but UVa won’t lose to Richmond in Charlottesville for the second time in three years.

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 9 

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Date: Saturday, September 8 th , 7:30 p.m.

INDIANA

Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

2017 Record:  5-7 (2-7 Big Ten)

Last Meeting:  September 9th, 2017 – Indiana 34, Virginia 17

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 63rd (11th of 14 in B1G)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 63rd (13th of 14 in B1G)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Indiana boasts an experienced receiving corps, featuring sophomore Whop Philyor, senior Luke Timian, and junior Nick Westbrook, who led the team in receiving in 2016 but missed last season after tearing his ACL in week one against Ohio State.

Weaknesses: For the second straight week, Virginia will face a team without a settled starting quarterback heading into training camp. Returning starter Peyton Ramsey will try to hold off Arizona grad transfer Brandon Dawkins for the starting nod; Dawkins is considered by many to be the favorite to win that job. The defense will also have to replace seven starters from last season.

 

Summary Thoughts: Shades of 2011, perhaps? In a Saturday night, week-two game that went back and forth, Virginia ultimately prevailed, 34-31, in Mike London’s second season. Expect this one to be just as close.

Indiana defeated Virginia last season after replacing starting quarterback Richard Lagow (who finished 3-for-10 for 24 yards and an interception on the afternoon) for Peyton Ramsey, who completed 16-of-20 passes for two touchdowns and also scampered for a 26-yard touchdown.

The defense couldn’t contain Ramsey, Kurt Benkert attempted 66 passes, and the rushing attack managed just 55 yards in the loss. Not a good showing.

But Virginia largely turned its season around after that game, winning four straight thereafter.

This game is winnable, and quite frankly, it’s the type of games Virginia should be winning in its third season under the new coaching staff. Oddsmakers will likely favor Indiana, but this will be a toss-up. A Virginia win here would do a lot for setting the stage for a successful 2018 football season.

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 5

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Date: Saturday, September 15th , 3:00 p.m.

OHIO

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

2017 Record:  9-4 (5-3 MAC)

Last Meeting:  Virginia 41, Ohio 7

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 71st (1st of 12 in MAC)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 84th (3rd of 12 in MAC)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: The offense. The Bobcats return nine starters from last season’s offense that averaged 39 points per game. Then-sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke passed for 2,203 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and also added 912 yards and another 21 touchdowns on the ground. The team also returns a big-play threat in receiver Papi White, who averaged 17.5 yards per catch in 2017, and an experienced offensive line.

Weaknesses: Although Ohio’s defense was among the best in the MAC last season, it returns only four starters for 2018. The biggest loss will be linebacker Quentin Poling, who was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the seventh round.

 

Summary Thoughts: Ohio certainly isn’t a team Virginia should overlook, but it’s 9-4 record was a bit deceiving last season. Their losses came against Purdue, Central Michigan, Akron, and Buffalo, with the latter two being its last two regular season games of the season. Not exactly frightening.

But credit where credit is due – Ohio wasn’t bad last season. Quarterback Nathan Rourke put up gaudy statistics both passing and rushing, and the team averaged 244 yards on the ground per game. The Bobcats also won eight games in both 2015 and 2016, too. Ohio is likely the early favorite to win the MAC championship.

Again, this is a game Virginia should win, but it’s also not exactly the type of game that can be overlooked, either. With the contest in Charlottesville, I think UVa comes out on top, but maybe not by as comfortable a margin as preferred – that’s the Virginia way.

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 7

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Date: Saturday, September 22nd, (start time TBD)

LOUISVILLE

Location: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

2017 Record:  8-5 (4-4 ACC)

Last Meeting:  November 11 th , 2017 – Louisville 38, Virginia 21

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 40th (8th of 14 in ACC)

Athlon team preview: Link

CFN Preseason Ranking: 32nd (3rd of 14 in ACC)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Wide Receiver, where senior Jaylen Smith returns after hauling in 60 receptions for 980 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Junior Seth Dawkins and sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick return as well after posting 642 and 699 receiving yards, respectively, in 2017. Louisville will have a receiving corps that won’t allow defensive backs any breaks.

Weaknesses: It’s not all doom and gloom without Lamar Jackson, but the offense won’t be nearly as lethal without him. Jackson was perhaps the most dynamic player in college football for the past two seasons, with 3,543 passing yards and 1,571 rushing yards in his Heisman campaign two years ago, and 3,660 yards passing and 1,601 rushing in 2017. Admittedly, for as much as I dislike Louisville sports, Jackson ranks among my favorite college football players of all time. New starting quarterback Jawon Pass (who stands at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds) could play fine as a former highly-touted prospect, but Jackson was a generational talent. Louisville must also replace its top three rushers from last season (including Jackson), who collectively accumulated 29 touchdowns and 2,491 yards on the ground in 2017.

 

Summary Thoughts: Since joining the ACC in 2014, the contests between Virginia and Louisville have actually been quite entertaining, despite Virginia holding just a 1-3 record against the Cardinals. UVa upset Louisville, 23-21, in 2014 and was oh-so-close to beating then-No. 5 Louisville in 2016 (seriously, look at how Lamar Jackson threaded the needle between Chris Peace and Micah Kiser on that fourth down, not to mention his picture-perfect game-winning pass).

But with Jackson gone to the Baltimore Ravens, 2018 very much becomes a year of transitionfor Louisville, which could score points but also was relatively inconsistent the past two seasons. Louisville fell against Clemson, NC State, Boston College, Wake Forest, and Mississippi State last season – all above average teams, but not all of them great, either. Playing the game in Charlottesville is an advantage for Virginia, and the new-look offense should be in full-gear by week four.

Again, another game where the Cardinals will be favored, but also one where Virginia has a chance to make an early statement.

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 4

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Date: Saturday, September 29nd, (start time TBD) 

NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Location: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, N.C.

2017 Record:  9-4 (6-2 ACC)

Last Meeting:  November 3rd , 2012 – Virginia 33, NC State 6

 

Athlon Preseason Ranking: 33rd (5th of 14 in ACC)

Athlon team preview: Link 

CFN Preseason Ranking: 34th (6 th of 14 in ACC)

CFN team preview: Link

 

Strengths: Senior quarterback Ryan Finley is arguably the best pure passer in the ACC. He threw for 3,518 yards completing 65% of his passes a year ago. Finley will have junior Kelvin Harmon on the outside, who has 96 career catches through his first two seasons. The offense should be among the best and most efficient in the country.

Weaknesses: There aren’t many. Losing defensive end Bradly Chubb hurts and is a microcosm of the entire defense, which needs to reload and do a better job preventing big plays. But the team is deep, talented, and a legit threat in the Atlantic.

 

Summary Thoughts: This will mark the first time since 2007 where Virginia will play two ACC games before the month of October. So this matchup has a bit of a different feel to it.

NC State was one of the better ACC teams a year ago. After falling against a good South Carolina team in week 1, the Wolfpack rattled off six straight wins before losing to a top-10 Notre Dame team on October 28 th . The team’s only other losses were against Clemson and Wake Forest, and three of the team’s four losses were by a touchdown or less.

However, NC State loses its defensive difference maker this season in Bradly Chubb, the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft. Chubb had 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks last season – the guy was an absolute beast. The team loses eight defensive starters in total, including seven of its top nine tacklers from last season. But quarterback Ryan Finley returns along with most of an offensive line that allowed just 13 sacks a year ago. And expectations are that the defense won’t experience too big a drop off.

Count this as a monumental win if Virginia comes out on top, and arguably the best of Mendenhall’s Virginia stint. Hope for a win, prepare for a loss.

Win Confidence (1 to 10): 3

 

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2018 Preview