Virginia football, a surprising 4-1 in Bronco Mendenhall’s second season, is getting votes in the coaches poll and has folks around Charlottesville thinking about the Cavaliers first bowl game since 2011.
It’s a remarkable turnaround after winning just two games a season ago, but if UVA is going to build on the momentum and make a postseason berth a reality, the next three games are key. Virginia has contests against at North Carolina, versus Boston College and at Pitt coming up. Those teams are a combined 5-13 and 0-8 in the ACC. As a group, they’ve yet to beat a Power 5 conference opponent.
Needless to say, those are three extremely winnable games and Virginia sitting at 7-1 and 4-0 in the ACC entering November is a real possibility. It might also be a necessity for the Cavs given the murderous stretch UVA faces to close out the season.
The Hoos have Georgia Tech at home followed by road games at Louisville and Miami then Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium for the final month of the regular season. Contrast that with the upcoming stretch, those four teams are a combined 16-4, two are ranked in the Top 25, one features to reigning Heisman Trophy winner and another is a bitter rival to which Virginia has lost 13 straight.
In other words, if UVA doesn’t get victory No. 6 to reach bowl eligibility in the next three weeks, it might be awfully tough to get them at all. Remember — Virginia football hasn’t gone to a bowl game since 2011.
The South’s Oldest Rivalry
That’s why Saturday against the Tar Heels might be the biggest game of the Mendenhall era to date. North Carolina struggled and is riddled with injuries, but has dominated the South’s Oldest Rivalry as of late, winning the last seven.
And Virginia has had a bad habit in recent years of following up encouraging performances with bad losses. To prove they’ve really turned the corner, the Cavs can’t afford a letdown in Chapel Hill.
Virginia’s offense has been humming since making changes along the offensive line in the second half of the loss to Indiana. The Cavs have won three straight and now face what is statistically the worst defense in the ACC. All that points in Virginia’s favor, yet Vegas has the Cavaliers as just a three-point favorite.