Head coach: Mike London
2014 Record: 5-7 overall; 3-5 ACC
2014 Bowl: N/A
2015 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 4 defense
Odds to win 2016 CFB Championship: +100000
Odds to win 2015 ACC Title: +10000
Regular Season Wins: Over 4 (-120); Under 4 (-110)
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Virginia finally settled on Matt Johns at QB and last season’s starter Greyson Lambert transferred to Georgia, so the Cavaliers will be making a transition again this season.
Matt Johns is best suited for the pro-style offense at QB as a 6’5” strong armed gunner. He needs to tone down his miscues though, and he threw for 1,109 yards last year with a 54.9 percent completion ratio. Johns had 8 TDs and 5 INTs while having incurred three sacks with a raw QB rating of 58.0. His best game came in the 45-13 win over Kent State on Sept 27 when he threw 17 of 28 for 227 yards and a pair of TDs (also 2 INTs).
Virginia ranked No. 97 in the nation in offense in 2014 and hopes to be a power running team this year. The OL provided good pass protection last year but didn’t do as good a job opening up holes for the rushers. 10 players are back with game experience and seven of that group has started some.
Losing TB Kevin Parks means that five-star recruit Taquan “Smoke” Mitchell will get his chance. The Cavaliers will look to Mitchell and others in its back field to create some bigger plays this year, and there are some quality WRs like Canaan Severin and North Carolina transfer T.J. Thorpe.
Defensively, Virginia loses a lot of its pass rushing to the NFL. Junior DE Eli Harold and sophomore LB Max Valles combined for 16 sacks and 27 tackles but are both gone as well, and senior LB Henry Coley’s eight sacks are out of the picture, as well.
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With all those losses, the Cavaliers are going to have to really work to be as pestering as it was last year with pass rushes. The back end of the unit has S Quin Blanding who was a freshman All-American, and he’ll be good for forcing some pass disruption. Demetrius Nicholson is another valuable member of the secondary returning from turf toe.
T David Dean is part of a strong group up front that ranked 18th nationally last year against the run. Mike Moore had three sacks and will help to force some rushes from the edge while former five-star recruit Andrew Brown is going to be featured heavily at T too this season. The LB group loses three starters, but won’t be bad just because it is young. There will be a true freshman or two in the mix.
Kicker Ian Frye had to do too much last year with Virginia unable to get in the end zone. He hit 22 of 27 FG. Punter Alec Vozenilek will be missed. Thorpe is a former All-ACC runner who will majorly bolster the return game.
Mike London is now 23-38 in his five seasons as Virginia’s head coach, and that tenure may be coming to its end. He went from 2-10 to 5-7 last year, but this year 5dimes sets the O/U at 4 wins, which while reasonable is also a regression and would likely show London out the door.
The season starts on the road at UCLA before going to Notre Dame in Week 2. The potential to start the season out down 0-2 is there. Virginia will also encounter Georgia Tech, Miami and Louisville in back-to-back-to-back weeks in conference play, and with the relative difficulty of that schedule it’s tough to imagine this team winning more than its set O/U.
Prediction: 4 wins
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