When the yearly calendar turns to June, football fans know they will start to see preseason coverage pick up steam. That includes predictions and projections for the upcoming season. The early ink for the Virginia football team certainly isn’t placing lofty expectations on the Hoos.
As the “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series keeps moving, let’s tackle some of these early prediction articles from cyberspace.
No. 88 – QB Optimism Not Enough To Tilt Early Predictions Too Far
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve spotted two or three articles with either Virginia or ACC predictions from outside the nearby region.
One appeared in The Orlando Sentinel, which is counting down its preseason rankings backward from No. 129. That staff placed UVA at No. 94 and second to last among ACC teams. Athlon Sports published its complete ACC preview this week. Its forecast placed the Hoos last in the Coastal Division with the worst overall record where it was tied at 4-8 with North Carolina.
Things read more in Virginia’s favor elsewhere. Back in January SportsOnEarth.com listed the Hoos at No. 76 in its early rankings, but then the site stopped publishing so there are no post-spring debates forthcoming there. Hero Sports began a similar countdown series in late May to rank the top 100 teams for 2018 and the Cavaliers checked in at No. 82. That makes them the first ACC team listed in the reverse order. Both of those are slightly better than the barely cracking the top 100 around last place predictions.
Finally, there’s one place that sees Bronco Mendenhall leading another surprise effort in 2018. College Football News didn’t provide a ranking or an ACC prediction, but this article says “it’ll be a fight to get to six wins. They’ll get there.” when discussing the Hoos. It also notes that the Cavaliers need to do well early in the schedule (reminder: I think so too) and pull off a win among the quartet of Indiana, NC State, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech to get there. All in all, that’s a more successful prediction than some others.
Regardless of where you look for outside perspective on Virginia, however, there seems to be a common thread emerging and that’s talk about transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins. The Cavaliers named him the starter at the end of spring practices and as almost everyone likely knows by now, he’s the dual threat style quarterback that Mendenhall and company crave. The predictions all note the potential impact of Perkins.
The Orlando Sentinel: “Mendenhall tried to temper expectations of his first-year starting quarterback after spring practice, but junior college transfer Bryce Perkins may spark some optimism. Mendenhall named Perkins his starting quarterback after spring practice, giving the Arizona native a glowing endorsement.”
Athlon Sports: Three of four panelists gave the 2018 superlative for “Top Newcomer” to Perkins.
Hero Sports: “JUCO transfer Bryce Perkins is in. This section is reserved for returning players but Perkins is too big of a piece to bury in Player Additions. Players and coaches were drooling over Perkins all spring.”
College Football News: In a “Best Virginia Offensive Player” section, this article listed Perkins even though he just arrived. “No pressure, new guy. Just be amazing, and carry the entire offense on your shoulders. If his terrific offseason was any indication, he can handle it.”
Granted most of that praise came siphoned through far-away observations of the Hoos and as UVA diehards know, there was a bit of an information vacuum this spring with no open practices, limited media viewings, and few in-house video highlights. That is in no way meant to knock or doubt Perkins, who clearly has some tools. He accelerates quickly, has evasive athleticism, and can throw fairly well with a good arm. That’s why the Cavaliers have been praising his abilities in interviews (and thus the trickle out effect to these publications). Still, it’s important to note where some of that praise is likely coming from in these articles.
With that said, those articles are right to point out Perkins because he’ll be a key player as this year’s team chases bowl eligibility. After all, Virginia averaged 32.7 points per game in its six wins last season and quarterback Kurt Benkert set single season records for passing yards, completions, attempts, and total offense in his final season. That’s a lot of production to replace and while Perkins will go about things a different way as UVA migrates to a more option-heavy set of schemes, it takes some offense to win in this era of college football.
If Perkins is up to the challenge, that could help tip the scales more toward College Football News’ prediction than others.
So far, the “99 Virginia Football Thoughts Before Kickoff” series has looked at punt returns, the return of some alums as graduate assistants, the competition at center, and more. The previous articles are below. Click away.
- No. 99 – The importance of a fast start
- No. 98 – The impact of early-ending careers
- No. 97 – Jordan Mack’s role
- No. 96 – Welcome Back
- No. 95 – Han Solo Says
- No. 94 -Smart Addition
- No. 93 – The Center Spot
- No. 92 – Finding A Punt Returner
- No. 91 – Facing Running Quarterbacks
- No. 90 – Interceptions
- No. 89 – Kickoff Times