This week, we’re examining each ACC team’s schedule, identifying the biggest games, looming upsets and most grueling stretches for each.
First up: Virginia Cavaliers
Coach Bronco Mendenhall is building from the ground up at Virginia, and last year’s disastrous season only served as a reminder of how far he has to go. The good news is there’s more talent this year than last. The bad news -- the schedule doesn’t leave much margin for error if the Cavaliers want to make a bowl game.
Toughest three-game stretch: Nov. 11-Nov. 24 (at Louisville, at Miami, vs. Virginia Tech)
Let’s say Virginia happens to pull off a few upsets in the early going, takes three of its four nonconference games and knocks off Duke or Boston College to enter November with a shot at bowl eligibility. Is that room for excitement? Maybe … or perhaps it’s a setup for disaster, with the final four games of the season all versus teams that won nine games or more in 2016, including a capper against rival Virginia Tech. It’s as brutal a November as any team in college football might face.
Potential trap game: William & Mary
OK, we’d like to believe this will be the cupcake on Virginia’s schedule, but last year’s FCS opener didn’t turn out to be simple. That loss to Richmond set the template for the season, and UVA simply cannot afford to take anyone for granted.
Swing game: Nov. 11 at Louisville
By this point in the season, perhaps it won’t matter. But it’s worth remembering that last year, as the Cardinals were flying high behind Lamar Jackson, lowly Virginia came within seconds of pulling off the upset. That, of course, has been par for the course at Virginia, where big wins have consistently seemed within reach, only to die in a flurry of last-second hysteria. Still, if the Cavaliers can get to November with five wins (say, William & Mary, Indiana, UConn, Duke and BC), Louisville might be the upset they’ll need to play in the postseason.
Projected W-L: At this point, a 1-11 finish with a win over the Hokies might be cause for celebration. We’ll go with something more predictable: 4-8 with a 14th straight defeat to their rivals.