The Virginia football program enters 2019 with confidence and high expectations as it looks to build on last season’s 8-5 campaign and Belk Bowl title. Obviously things can change depending on injury and how well other teams come together, but at first glance the 2019 schedule appears favorable for the Hoos to accomplish more significant goals than the ones they enjoyed a year ago.
The slate begins with a challenging in-conference road game against Pitt, which again has had UVA’s number in Pat Narduzzi’s four seasons as head coach, and includes tough road games against Notre Dame and Miami; however, the Cavaliers have two bye weeks – one before Miami, which takes on UVA on a short week, and another in November – and finish out the season with three straight games in Scott Stadium following an away contest at a UNC team that finished 2-10 in 2018.
Virginia Football’s 2019 Schedule
– August 31 – @Pitt
– September 6 – WILLIAM & MARY
– September 14 – FLORIDA STATE
– September 21 – OLD DOMINION
– September 28 – @Notre Dame
– October 5 – BYE
– October 11 – @Miami
– October 19 – DUKE
– October 26 – @Louisville
– November 2 – @North Carolina
– November 9 – GEORGIA TECH
– November 16 – BYE
– November 23 – LIBERTY
– November 29 – VIRGINIA TECH
No question the Cavaliers need to make strides of their own, most notably …
– Winning on the road. UVA has four true road wins in Bronco Mendenhall’s three seasons in Charlottesville – two of those victories have come against Duke, with Boise State and UNC being the others. UVA captured only one true road win last season and lost four.
– Winning November. Virginia is just 2-10 in the month of November the past three years. In 2018 the Cavaliers had a grip on the Coastal Division heading into November. After a poor showing in a home loss to Pitt, Virginia defeated Liberty before losing a pair of ACC road games to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The final two losses were close ones in overtime – Virginia easily should have closed out Virginia Tech in regulation – but they were losses nonetheless, and that needs to change this season.
– Beating Virginia Tech (and Pitt). UVA has lost 15 straight to its in-state rival, and Pitt has beaten the Cavaliers four straight seasons.
Be on the lookout for our detailed game preview each game week, but in the meantime let’s take a quick glance at Virginia’s 2019 schedule. I’ve separated the season into three 4-game quadrants – the first four games, the middle four, and the final four – and ranked the games within each quadrant by importance.
37 – Ranking Virginia Football’s 2019 Schedule
RANKING THE FIRST FOUR
The season opener figures to be one of Virginia’s most important of the 2019 season. The Hoos travel to Pittsburgh on August 31 for a matchup with the Coastal Division rival Panthers, who compiled a 7-7 record last season that included an ACC Coastal Division title.
As mentioned above, Pitt has won all four meetings with UVA in Pat Narduzzi’s tenure. The last three wins have come during the Bronco Mendenhall era. Offensive struggled have doomed UVA, which has mustered only 27 points in total the past two seasons against Pitt, including a 13-point outing in a 23-13 loss in Charlottesville last season in a pivotal game. The Cavaliers have scored just 30 points in the last 10 quarters against the Panther D. Perhaps playing Pitt in September will be a good thing as the Panthers have compiled a 7-9 record in the month in the past four seasons.
On offense, Pitt returns quarterback Kenny Pickett but will be looking to replace both of its 1,000-yard rushers from last year in Qadree Ollison and Darren Hall as well as four of five starters on the offensive line. Defensively, Pitt welcomes back a strong secondary but was dealt a major blow today when it was revealed that top defensive end Rashad Weaver will miss the season with a knee injury. In addition to being productive (he led the Panthers in sacks), Weaver was a sparkplug of the defense.
Capturing a victory in the season opener, on the road, against a division rival that has dominated you would be a huge start to the season for Virginia.
2. Florida State
Head coach Willie Taggart’s first season at Florida State didn’t go as planned as the Seminoles finished with a 5-7 record and losses in four of its final five games. Only one of those wins – a 28-24 victory over a 2-10 Louisville team – came on the road. FSU opens 2019 with a “neutral site” contest versus Boise State in Jacksonville and hosts Louisiana Monroe in week two before heading to Charlottesville.
Despite last year’s subpar effort, Florida State is still Florida State. By that I mean they still have speed, athleticism, and talent and this team should not be taken lightly. Finding a quarterback to get the ball to preseason All-ACC receiver Tamorrion Terry and to compliment a potent stable of running backs (led by Cam Akers) could be the difference between more of the same from last year and a turnaround season. Florida State’s defense will be fast and athletic and is led by preseason All-ACC defensive tackle Marvin Wilson.
The last meeting between the Cavaliers and Seminoles came in Tallahassee in 2014, when FSU came away with a 34-20 victory. Mike Rocco, Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and company led the Hoos to a 14-13 victory over Florida State in Tallahassee in 2011. The last time FSU traveled to Charlottesville was 2010, and Virginia was on the wrong end of a 34-14 decision.
Holding serve here against a dangerous opponent and either notching the first conference win of the year or, hopefully, improving to 2-0 in the conference makes this game so important.
3. Old Dominion
The first ever meeting between the Monarchs and the Cavaliers takes place in Charlottesville on September 21. ODU hosts Norfolk State in its season opener before heading to Blacksburg to face Virginia Tech, who Bobby Wilder’s team took down last season, 45-31. The win over Tech was one of four the Monarchs achieved in 2018.
ODU does have a bye the week before facing UVA in Scott Stadium on September 21. An upset seems unlikely, but given what happened to Tech last year and considering the Monarchs have a bye week the Cavaliers need to be prepared. Wilder has guided ODU to a 76-45 record in his 10 seasons in Norfolk.
4. William & Mary
William & Mary went 4-6 in legendary coach Jimmye Laycock’s final season as head coach. A familiar face to Virginia fans now leads the Tribe – former Cavalier head coach Mike London. Coach London makes his return to Scott Stadium on September 14. The classy coach should receive a warm welcome from Cavalier fans; however, his team should be no match for UVA.
RANKING THE MIDDLE FOUR
UVA’s ability to win on the road will be put to the test in the second “quadrant” of games, which begins September 28 and end October 26.
The media picked Virginia, Miami and Virginia Tech to finish 1, 2 and 3, respectively in preseason voting in the Coastal Division. Pittsburgh, last year’s Coastal champ, is picked to finish fourth. Virginia faces the Panthers and the Hurricanes in the first half of the season. The first two weeks of October will be important in the Coastal Division race as Miami takes on Virginia Tech on October 5 before hosting the Hoos on October 11.
Miami will be led this year by head coach Manny Diaz, who takes over for Mark Richt, who resigned after three years leading the Hurricanes. Diaz, who is in his first head coaching job, served as Richt’s defensive coordinator in the past three years. He has overseen a Hurricanes defense that has improved each of the previous three seasons and finished fourth in the nation in total defense last season. While Miami’s D should once again be stout, the major question is if the offense can find consistency on offense, particularly at the quarterback position.
UVA gutted out a victory over Miami in Charlottesville last year. This year, the Hoos get a bye week to prepare for this tough road contest, while the Hurricanes will have a short week to prepare for the Cavaliers. A win here could give Virginia three early conference wins against three of the four toughest conference opponents, at least judging by preseason predictions.
2. @Notre Dame
Miami gets the nod over Notre Dame rankings-wise because of conference implications. Make no mistake, this game is one of the highlights of UVA’s 2019 season schedule as the Cavaliers will get to test their mettle against one of the nation’s best in a hostile environment.
UVA and Notre Dame have only met twice before. The Fighting Irish won both games, first defeating UVA 36-13 in East Rutherford (N.J.) all the way back in 1989. Virginia wound up winning 10 games and capturing a share of the ACC title that season. In 2015, Notre Dame pulled off a 34-27 victory in Charlottesville with a 39-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to play. The Cavaliers, then led by Mike London, held a 27-26 lead after an Albert Reid touchdown with 1:54 to play but couldn’t hang on for the upset.
This year’s matchup will be the first time the teams have met in South Bend. Notre Dame will almost assuredly enter the 2019 season with a top 10 ranking – Sports Illustrated has the Irish at no. 7 while Sporting News ranks Brian Kelly’s group no. 9 – and is in the conversation as a possible College Playoff contender. Coach Kelly guided the program to an undefeated regular season in 2018 and a berth in the playoff, where it lost to eventual champion Clemson. This year’s squad should field a good defense and returns quarterback Ian Book on offense; however, top running back Dexter Williams and top receiver Miles Boykin are gone.
UVA travels to South Bend on September 28, a week after Notre Dame takes on a top five team in the Georgia Bulldogs.
Virginia concludes the second quadrant of games with a trip to Louisville, which features a new head coach in Scott Satterfield. Last year’s dismal 2-10 campaign led to Bobby Petrino’s firing, and Satterfield, who excelled in six seasons at Appalachian State (51-24 overall, 38-10 in the Sun Belt conference) before accepting the same role with the Cardinals, is trying to get the program moving in the right direction.
Louisville received the fewest votes of any ACC school in preseason voting. Satterfield has a track record of success, though, so we’ll see how this team looks when late October rolls around. As of now this looks like a game UVA should win to finish off October in style.
The Blue Devils are coming off an 8-5 campaign that included a bowl victory over Temple. Duke will have to replace quarterback Daniel Jones, which may not be a bad thing for Duke when it comes to Virginia, which owned the New York Giants 2019 first-round pick. Coach Mendenhall boasts a 3-0 mark against David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils and should continue the win streak on October 19 in Charlottesville.
RANKING THE FINAL FOUR
We’ve reached November, a month that has not been kind to Virginia football in the Mendenhall era. The Hoos have compiled only two wins compared to 10 losses in November the past three seasons. This year’s final stretch looks favorable, with North Carolina the only away game and three home games – Georgia Tech, Liberty and Virginia Tech – to end the year. The Hoos have a bye between the Georgia Tech (Nov. 9) and Liberty (Nov. 23) and then take on Tech on Friday, November 29.
1. Virginia Tech
THE biggest game of the year, bar none, whatever happens before. Virginia Tech improbably squeaked out an overtime win in Blacksburg last season, giving the Hokies 15 straight wins in the series. “Beat Tech” is the front-and-center motto for Coach Mendenhall, who admits a victory here is a must for his program to move forward.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech seeks to rebound from a 6-7 record in 2018. Adding to the drama of the final game is defensive coordinator Bud Foster announcing his retirement at season’s end. Virginia Tech players carried Frank Beamer off of David A. Harrison III Field in victory in his final season, and you know this year’s group would love to do the same for Foster.
2. @North Carolina
Mack is back and looking to right the North Carolina football ship in 2019. Yes, Mack Brown is once again the leader of the Tar Heels, but whether or not he can repeat the success he enjoyed previously in Chapel Hill remains to be seen. UNC looks to rebound from Larry Fedora’s final season, in which the team finished with a 2-10 record.
After losing to North Carolina his first season at Virginia, Coach Mendenhall has guided the Hoos to victories each of the past two years. UVA downed UNC in Chapel Hill in 2017. A victory in Chapel Hill in 2019 will be just the start the Hoos want/need to finish the regular season strong for the first time in the Mendenhall era.
3. Georgia Tech
No more triple option to contain, as Paul Johnson stepped down after last season’s 7-6 record. Enter Geoff Collins, who was Temple’s head coach for two years – he led the Owls to 15 wins and two bowl games – before heading to Atlanta.
The transition should be a tough one in Collins’ first year – the rest of the media feels the same, voting Georgia Tech last in the Coastal and second-to-last in all of the ACC. The Hoos and the Yellow Jackets have had their share of entertaining contests in Scott Stadium, but this year UVA should handle Georgia Tech just fine.
Turner Gil resigned as Liberty head coach following a 6-6 campaign, paving the way for former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze to become the next Flames coach. Liberty hung with Virginia for most of last year’s game before the Hoos pulled away for a 45-24 win. The Flames’ offense should be good once again, possibly presenting some problems for Virginia with Virginia Tech awaiting the following Friday, but UVA should score a fairly easy win nonetheless.
50 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff
- 50 – Is Being Favored A Good Thing?
- 49 – What Is Bryce Hall’s Ceiling?
- 48 – What It Takes To Win The Coastal
- 47 – Will Tavares Kelly Have A Breakout Season?
- 46 – Defensive Line Reboot
- 45 – Secondary Contenders
- 44 – Stars & Sleepers
- 43 – One For All?
- 42 – Fan Interest Thermometer
- 41 – Workhorse Search
- 40 – More Points
- 39 – First Year Predictions
- 38 – Be Disruptive