If his first year coaching the Virginia Cavaliers is any indication, Bronco Mendenhall had a nice setup at BYU. Mendenhall never had a losing record while on the Provo campus and went bowling in each of his 11 seasons. It looked like he forgot how to coach after the Cavs were a huge disappointment in 2016, posting just two victories and matching the season low from the Mike London era. It doesn’t look like things are going to get better anytime soon in Charlottesville with few returning playmakers on offense and a defense that lost too much talent.
2016 Record: 2-10 SU, 4-7-1 ATS, 4-7 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 5.5
National Championship Odds: +200000
Odds To Win ACC: +20000
There were some raised expectations after Mendenhall accepted the position. He had an outstanding run at BYU with a program that has limitations on recruiting and acceptance. He also inherited an experienced roster from the London regime. The Cavs didn’t win many games under the former coach, but he did recruit well for UVA standards.
Losing to an FCS program doesn’t automatically doom your season, Washington State knows a little about that. But the Cavs weren’t Wazzou and dropping the opener to Richmond was a blow to the jejunum. It started a three-game skid that also included losses to Oregon and UConn. Three winnable games that were all lost, and so was the season.
The Cavs fought back a bit after that. They won the next two and showed signs of an offense that was MIA against the Huskies. They beat Central Michigan 49-35 and Duke 34-20 in the two biggest scoring outputs of the year. Even with those points the Cavs ranked 115th in scoring with an average of 22.5 per game and they couldn’t run the ball. Their 113.6 yards per game was the seventh-worst in the FBS.
It’s one thing to crap out with a roster of underclassmen. It’s another to do it with juniors and seniors sprinkled throughout. Mendenhall now has the chance to mold his own team with his recruits as the London regime kids filter through. But it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
There is some reason for hope and optimism, however. The team showed signs of life offensively last season when there was balance in the attack. That happened when the Cavs scored 114 of their 270 points in a three-game stretch when they also won their only games. Quarterback Kurt Benkert, who threw for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in those three games, returns. He was benched near the end of last season, but is the unquestioned No. 1 entering the campaign. Doni Dowling and Olamide Zaccheaus are back after combining for 101 receptions and 11 touchdowns.
The run game has to improve after finishing last in the ACC. That’s easier said than done, though. Jordan Ellis is top returning ground gainer after picking up just 61 yards last year. The best players on the team are on defense in linebacker Micah Kiser and safety Quin Blanding. With some help up front and development in the secondary, the Cavs should improve on their 99th-ranked scoring defense. There just isn’t enough to get bowl eligible, but increasing the win total would be a victory for Mendenhall.
Week 1: Virginia vs. William & Mary, Saturday, September 2
Week 2: Virginia vs. Indiana, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: Virginia vs. Connecticut, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: Virginia at Boise State, Friday, September 22
Week 5: OFF
Week 6: Virginia vs. Duke, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: Virginia at North Carolina, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: Virginia vs. Boston College, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: Virginia at Pittsburgh, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: Virginia vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: Virginia at Louisville, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: Virginia at Miami (FL), Saturday, November 18
Week 13: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, Friday, November 24
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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