The Virginia Cavaliers finished 2017 with a 6-7 record, 3-5 in the ACC and 6-7 against the spread. We unfortunately think the team will regress more in 2018. The program has struggled for several years, but last year was a bit more respectable.
The team will be led by a Junior College Transfer at Quarterback who can run and pass. However, we expect a few weeks to pass before adjusting to this level of competition. We like wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus who finished 2017 with 895 yards and 5 touchdowns, but there is a recurring problem that we do not see being solved. Namely, this offensive line is very ineffective. A mobile quarterback can help matters, but it is no guarantee. Last year’s starting quarterback Kurt Benkert was not as mobile as this year’s starter Bryce Perkins, but he was fairly consistent with a near 60 percent completion percentage and 25 touchdowns against 9 interceptions. Although Perkins will be flashier, we will be concerned with consistency. As the season progresses, we expect output on offense to increase, but are skeptical early on.
The backfield features Jordan Ellis who will be a Senior. He went for 836 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. He is steady, but lacks breakaway ability. The longest run of the season was only 25 yards in 2017. Again, a lot of this stems from an ineffective line, which remains the achilles heal.
On the defensive side of the ball Virginia gives up points. The season finale against Virginia Tech was a low scoring 10-0 loss, but the five prior games had the defense allowing 41, 31, 36, 38, and 44. The unit then allowed 49 in the Bowl Game against Navy. With most of the same personnel returning, we do not anticipate a huge turnaround from the 2017 numbers.
The season win total for the Cavaliers is listed as over/under 5 and the odds to win the ACC are +4000. We anticipate Virginia will struggle, but there are enough soft spots in the schedule to suggest the team could potentially win 5 games. We will avoid both future options based on current information.
The season kicks off with a home game against Richmond of the FCS. We do not expect a line in this game. It will be a good opportunity for Bryce Perkins to get acclimated.
Week #2 is a road game against Indiana of the Big Ten. Indiana defeated Virginia last season by 17 at
Charlottesville. Indiana’s poor record is generally due to a difficult Big Ten schedule, but they are competitive against more mediocre teams. This could be a good spot for Virginia as the 17 point loss at home last season could make this line get a bit inflated. If Virginia is getting anywhere close to double digit odds, we would look at this is a potential underdog road play and take the points with the Cavaliers.
Week #3 is a home game against the Ohio Bobcats of the Mid American Conference. Ohio is a respectable program that puts a lot of points on the board and returns most of their offense from last season. They have an extremely athletic quarterback who had 21 rushing touchdowns last season and 17 passing touchdowns. Defensively they are not great, but they do enough to hold leads. We think this game, despite being at home, will be a challenging spot for Virginia, especially if they fall behind by a few scores early. Look for Ohio to play very well here and escape with a win.
Week #4 is a home game against Louisville who will regress a bit offensively following the loss of former Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Nevertheless, Louisville still has talent on the offense and will likely be able to move the ball against Virginia. By Week 4 we expect Virginia’s offense to be more in sync and this should be a high scoring affair. We will look at this as a possible over spot and will provide updates as we get closer to Week 4.
The first month of the season closes out with a road game against NC State, another team with an above average offense. NC State finished last season at 9-4 and we expect them to be good once again. They are led by a Senior Quarterback who threw for over 3,500 yards last season and he gets his top targets back. NC State is sometimes vulnerable defensively and thus again we will look for this as a significantly high scoring game and another possible over spot with NC State winning by two touchdowns or more.