Far from a media darling of late at the ACC Kickoff event, the Virginia football team shook up the preseason standings this season. In voting held at the annual event last week, media members selected UVA to win the Coastal Division in 2019. Every Coastal team received at least one first-place vote, but the Cavaliers received 82 picks for the top spot.
In the Atlantic Division, Clemson, unsurprisingly, was a run-away choice to win with 171 of 173 possible first-place votes. The Tigers received 170 votes to win the ACC title, while Syracuse (2) and Virginia (1) picked up the remaining votes. Clemson is the reigning National Champion.
For UVA, this is a major reversal from recent preseason polls. The Hoos had been picked last in the division for five straight seasons from 2014-2018. In fact, they received the fewest voting points of all ACC teams in 2017 and the second fewest total voting points last season (ahead of only Syracuse). Virginia had never been picked as the division winner since the league went to the Coastal and Atlantic format in 2005. The Cavaliers actually had never been picked higher than a third-place finish before this year’s preseason poll.
Virginia, of course, is coming off an eight-win season that finished with a 28-0 shutout of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. The Cavaliers have several key players back from that team, including quarterback Bryce Perkins, receivers Hasise Dubois and Joe Reed, linebacker Jordan Mack, defensive back Bryce Hall, and multiple others on both sides of the ball. That experience, along with steady progress through the first three years of Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure, have left the Hoos with growing confidence and the willingness to embrace growing expectations.
They’ll likely need a stronger finish than a year ago to capture the Coastal’s spot in the title game. The Wahoos lost three straight ACC games to end the 2018 regular season with a win against Liberty sandwiched in there during November. Two of those losses came in overtime against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech within seven days of each other. Those two teams represent the final two league games again this season, but they’re spread much further apart with GT on Nov. 9 followed by a bye week and another non-con game with Liberty before the contest with VT on Nov. 29.
The season begins with an ACC game this season as well. Virginia opens at Pittsburgh, last season’s Coastal winner, on August 31. There’s also a league game at home against Florida State on Sept. 14. After that, the Hoos will need to play well on the road with three out of four games in conference competition taking place outside of Charlottesville in October.
The full voting results (with first-place votes in parentheses) follow:
- Virginia (82) – 1,003
- Miami (55) – 992
- Virginia Tech (20) – 827
- Pittsburgh (8) – 691
- Duke (6) – 566
- North Carolina (1) – 463
- Georgia Tech (1) – 302
- Clemson (171) – 1,209
- Syracuse (2) – 913
- Florida State – 753
- NC State – 666
- Boston College – 588
- Wake Forest – 462
- Louisville – 253
Reactions to the media’s pick of Virginia drew some social media chatter on Twitter.
“@UVAFootball is favored in the Coastal Division”. No, it’s not a misprint…after 5 straight years picked last, @UVACoachBronco has the #Hoos poised for big things. #NewStandard indeed. #GoHoos https://t.co/TmxK1aA4jz
— Dave Koehn (@wahoovoice) July 22, 2019
It’s one thing to perform and surprise folks, yet it’s another thing to live up to expectations.. BE GREAT‼️ 🔸⚔️‼️ 🤫🤫🤫🤫 https://t.co/65C6U1dhzM
— Ahmad Hawkins 🤫🤫 (@IAmBallHawk) July 22, 2019
@CanesFootball Hahahahahahaha…..I just learned that the idiots at the ACC voting have Virginia in 1st place of the Coastal this year. We’re going to kick Virginia’s butts at home this year. Payback is a bitch isn’t it??
Canes ARE going to surprise a lot of these fools this year
— hermiecane (@hermiecanemiami) July 22, 2019
ACC Media as a whole are showing signs that they are paying attention by voting Virginia to win the Coastal. Good to see.
— Ben Milstead (@benmilstead) July 22, 2019
Absolutely! I’m selfishly rooting for Virginia because a year ago the coach said he only had like 20 ACC players
— Hank Lee (@hanklee89) July 22, 2019
My #ACC hot take: No team is going to be within 15 points of Clemson in the title game, so we might as well see some rando team like UVA make the title game.
— Parrish Walton (@ParrishWalton) July 22, 2019
I will streak the lawn if Virginia wins the ACC Coastal.
That bandwagon is all out of room.
— Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell) July 22, 2019
Surprised to see Virginia as the team that the media voted as the ACC Coastal Champs. I thought Miami was the clear favorite.
Does UVA have enough around Perkins offensively? Defense should be great. pic.twitter.com/YzmMsdNdCi
— Joe Marino (@TheJoeMarino) July 22, 2019