If you asked what a perfect season for UVA football would be, it'd certainly include the following: Beat Tech. Beat Carolina. Beat Maryland. (On a related note: please DIAF, realignment.) Win the Coastal Division. Win the ACC CG. Play in the Orange Bowl (normally reserved for the ACC champ.) A berth in the playoff would be nice, and a national championship would be nice (or mind-bendingly amazing, but, same thing.) But football's a different animal from basketball, and UVA will always have a cliff to climb in recruiting against the Amazon River of bag money that flows to players at schools like Alabama and Ohio State.
So you have to just roll with certain other goals, like being king of the tiny hill that is the Coastal Division. That list of goals above is perfectly attainable. I have watched other UVA fans act as though our ceiling is 7-5 and vehemently disagreed every time.
Still, if you told me Bronco would hit practically all of them in just his fourth season, I'd have asked what you were smoking.
Such was the weight of the streak monkey on UVA's backs that the Coastal championship and likely Orange Bowl trip to the winner was a second thought for every observer. Not just UVA-affiliated ones, either. Neutrals, Hokies, pundits, announcers, everything. For every graphic on the screen that mentioned the ACC CG, there were two that mentioned the streak. And when the game was wrapped up, the announcers said nary a word about Clemson, nor did the sideline guy ask Bronco about it. Ignoring the ACC championship game and the Orange Bowl - it spoke volumes about the weight of that streak.
But Bronco's terse answer was on point: "The streak is over." Nothing more need be said about it. What's upcoming is two more games in the halls of college football royalty. UVA's past brushes with the big-time were never like this. A few Peach Bowls, but at a time when the Peach was a step below. One Sugar Bowl against #6 Tennessee. Ever since college football began officially sanctioning Big Time Football, UVA has been on the outside of it looking in. Before there was the College Football Playoff and the New Year's 6, before the BCS, there was the Bowl Alliance, and before that, the Bowl Coalition - college football's first evolutionary steps out of what it now considers the Dark Ages when just anyone could decide who the national champion was. UVA never participated in any of them, nor in any of the 14 preceding ACC Championship Games.
All that's about to change. For the next month, UVA football is going to have a bigger light shining on it than it ever has before. They'll put behind them the matchups with Duke and North Carolina and so on - and no offense to those schools (this time) but in no world has the UVA-Duke football game attracted any attention from anyone. They'll hear their name in promo material for a week next to the word "championship"; they'll almost certainly find themselves placed in a Sanctioned Official Big-Time Bowl Game shortly afterwards; and their opponents in both will be about as Sanctioned Big-Time as you can get. The conventional wisdom leans toward a UVA-Alabama matchup in the Orange Bowl - which would mean UVA will get a double-barreled dose, in just one month, of the last four national title winners.
And in true Earned Not Given fashion, UVA fans are staring down - let's be honest - two absolute blowout losses, and loving every minute of it. Alabama fans are already keeping track of which of their NFL prospects are going to skip this totally meaningless game. Bronco knows you appreciate anything more if you earned it, and who has earned the right to enjoy an Orange Bowl berth more than a UVA fan, after suffering through 15 years of.... that? And who has been given an Orange Bowl berth as an unwelcome consolation prize, if not an Alabama fan? To the SEC, "It Just Means More." But not in this case. Enjoy the big-time month, Hoo fans. Clemson and Alabama fans may think it can never be taken away from them. We know it can. We'll hope for more of it, because Bronco is in the right place to make it happen. We might even expect more. But we'll enjoy the show, win or lose.