Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. An intriguing experiment
Bronco Mendenhall is a very good coach, probably the second-best BYU has ever had.
It appeared this was a coaching marriage gone stale. Mendenhall didn't know what else he could do to move the program forward through independence, and at some point BYU administration was going to get tired of only beating mediocre and bad teams.
Mendenhall welcomed Virginia's advances, and BYU got a chance to start over.
The ACC made a lot of coaching changes, and the potential upgrades were clear. Virginia Tech landed Memphis' Justin Fuente to replace Frank Beamer. Syracuse replaced Scott Shafer with Bowling Green's Dino Babers. Miami replaced Al Golden with alum and former 10-wins-a-year Georgia coach Mark Richt.
As Memphis was better than VT, BGSU was better than Syracuse, and Georgia was better than Miami last year, you could pretty clearly call these upgrades. And combined with Pitt adding Pat Narduzzi last year, it really appears the ACC has improved through strong hires.
Virginia's hire didn't feature the same level of pizzazz. It was renowned as a strong hire but didn't seem to rank as highly as Fuente or Richt.
But it may have been every bit as much of an upgrade. Over the course of Mike London's six seasons, his Cavaliers showed random promise and featured just enough star recruits to make you curious about their upside. But they never came close to putting the pieces together. They were a lucky 8-5 in 2011 and an unlucky 5-7 in 2014, but their average S&P+ ranking was 74.5, their average win total 4.5.
Whatever you consider to be Virginia's realistic expectations, Hoo fans should expect more than that. London recruited at a top-50 level but only once produced top-50 results or performed better than Mendenhall's BYU in a given year (in the unlucky 2014.) And in 2015, just as their offense began to figure some things out -- UVA ranked 54th in Off. S&P+, easily the best offensive rating of the London era -- the defense bottomed out.
Just as it may have been a good time for Mendenhall to leave Provo, it was definitely a good time for London to leave C'ville.
So now we get to find out exactly how good a coach Mendenhall is. The 50-year-old Oregon State alum dealt with unique recruiting challenges at BYU and consistently produced top-50-caliber teams. Now he deals with a different challenge: selling a program that doesn't have the history of its conference rivals.
Virginia was once the most consistently decent program -- in the 25 seasons between 1983 and 2007, the Cavaliers won at least six games 21 times but won 10 only once -- but has now bowled just twice in 10 years. They are in the right ACC division (the Clemson- and FSU-free Coastal) but have finished within two games of the division crown only once since 2008.
The bar is low, and Mendenhall is a good enough coach to clear it with room to spare. This could be a happy second marriage. At the very least, Mendenhall's record suggests he could get Virginia back to the point where fans are getting tired of seven-win seasons. Al Groh averaged seven wins per year from 2001-08, and that wasn't really getting the job done. London only hit that mark once.
|Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 6-6 | Final F/+ Rk: 78 | Final S&P+ Rk: 73|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|19-Sep||William & Mary||N/A||35-29||W||55%||68%||-16.6|
|24-Oct||at North Carolina||24||13-26||L||29%||1%||+4.9||+4.5|
|Points Per Game||25.8||89||32.2||96|
2. Consistency? What's that?
If you drew a trendline with Virginia's percentile chart above, it would be moving slightly up.
- UVA's first 5 games:
Record: 1-4 | Average percentile performance: 38% (~top 80) | Yards per play: Opp 6.3, UVA 5.5 (-0.8)
- UVA's next 4 games:
Record: 2-2 | Average percentile performance: 51% (~top 65) | Yards per play: Opp 6.3, UVA 5.3 (-1.0)
- UVA's last 3 games:
Record: 1-2 | Average percentile performance: 65% (~top 45) | Yards per play: Opp 6.0, UVA 5.8 (-0.2)
That is what you hope to see from a team that is scheduled to return its quarterback, two versatile running backs, most of its offensive line two-deep, and most of its linebackers and defensive backs. Virginia wasn't the youngest team in FBS, but it was young, and based on averages, it seemed to settle in at a top-50 level by the end of the year.
There were two main problems.
First, though they were playing better, they couldn't seal the deal. That was the case from start to finish. In the second game, against an excellent Notre Dame, they gave up a long, late pass to turn a 27-26 lead into a 34-27 defeat. They lost by seven at Pitt, by six at Miami, by seven at Louisville, and by three at Virginia Tech. They were just decent enough to lose tight games.
Second, they could never pull off good performances back to back. They hit the 62nd percentile in a win over Syracuse, then fell to the 29th against UNC. They surged to the 76th against Georgia Tech, then the 35th against Miami. Et cetera. They probably shouldn't have been as close as they were in some of those close losses, and the offense wasn't good enough to overcome the defense's sudden deficiencies.
UVA becomes a Mendenhall team. That likely means a fast-paced offense and an angry, sometimes too angry, 3-4 defense. If he can install some consistency in 2016, that will be a nice first step.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||40.8%||76||Succ. Rt. +||101.0||68|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||32.1||113||Def. FP+||29.5||63|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.7||48||Redzone S&P+||107.8||45|
|Q1 Rk||60||1st Down Rk||82|
|Q2 Rk||60||2nd Down Rk||85|
|Q3 Rk||87||3rd Down Rk||74|
3. A Robert Anae offense, starring Matt Johns
As BYU's offensive coordinator from 2005-10 and 2013-15, Robert Anae produced an average Off. S&P+ ranking of 35.9. Without him in 2011-12, BYU averaged 68.5. A career line coach before his 2005 promotion, Anae tries to focus on tempo and physical play.
He allows the talent on hand to dictate everything else. When he had a dual-threat talent like Taysom Hill, his offense was heavy on read options; Hill threw for 2,938 yards and rushed for 1,344 in 2013. When a passer like Tanner Mangum or Max Hall was in charge, he turned to the passing game; Hall threw for nearly 4,000 yards in 2008, and Mangum, a freshman, threw for nearly 3,400 last year.
While Johns did rush three or four times per game, he far more resembles Hall and Mangum than he does Hill. He showed serious efficiency potential in 2015, completing at least 60 percent of his passes in eight of 12 games. But in his first full year as a starter, he struggled to pull out of a skid. When things went poorly, they went REALLY poorly.
- Johns against Boise State, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech: 47-for-93 (51 percent), 518 yards, 3 TD, 9 INT, 88.6 passer rating.
- Johns against everybody else: 200-for-310 (65 percent), 2,292 yards, 17 TD, 8 INT, 139.6 passer rating.
A 139.6 passer rating isn't amazing, but it will do. 88.6 will not.
Assuming Johns holds off Connor Brewer and ECU transfer Kurt Benkert, his job will be to get the ball into the hands of two unique backfield threats -- Taquan Mizzell and Olamide Zaccheaus, who combined for 197 carries and 96 catches last year -- and more steadily guide an offense that wants to wear a defense down with tempo and lots of snaps. You can't take lots of snaps if you're throwing picks.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Matt Johns||6'5, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8562||247||403||2810||20||17||61.3%||19||4.5%||6.4|
|Connor Brewer||6'2, 215||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9267||4||8||34||0||1||50.0%||1||11.1%||3.4|
|6'3, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8364|
|Sonny Abramson||6'2, 208||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8493|
|Devante Cross||6'2, 180||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8046|
|Taquan Mizzell||TB||5'10, 195||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9721||164||664||4||4.0||4.1||32.9%||5||3|
|Albert Reid||TB||5'9, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8667||66||360||3||5.5||9.9||28.8%||0||0|
|Daniel Hamm||TB||5'10, 200||Jr.||NR||NR||56||249||1||4.4||4.5||30.4%||0||0|
|Matt Johns||QB||6'5, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8562||42||213||1||5.1||3.0||47.6%||6||2|
|Olamide Zaccheaus||TB/WR||5'8, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8529||33||262||1||7.9||6.3||60.6%||1||1|
|Jordan Ellis||TB||5'11, 205||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8442||24||74||2||3.1||9.0||16.7%||0||0|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Taquan Mizzell||TB||5'10, 195||Sr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9721||99||75||719||75.8%||25.6%||7.3||59.6%||47.5%||1.38|
|Olamide Zaccheaus||TB/WR||5'8, 190||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8529||33||21||216||63.6%||8.5%||6.5||66.7%||39.4%||1.49|
|Evan Butts||TE||6'4, 240||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8432||23||16||182||69.6%||5.9%||7.9||65.2%||65.2%||1.05|
|Keeon Johnson||WR-Z||6'3, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544||22||13||173||59.1%||5.7%||7.9||63.6%||50.0%||1.45|
|Daniel Hamm||TB||5'10, 200||Jr.||NR||NR||18||14||174||77.8%||4.7%||9.7||44.4%||50.0%||1.75|
|Albert Reid||TB||5'9, 210||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8667||18||12||47||66.7%||4.7%||2.6||66.7%||22.2%||1.00|
|Doni Dowling||WR-F||6'1, 215||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8100||6||1||-1||16.7%||1.6%||-0.2||16.7%||0.0%||0.00|
|Andre Levrone||WR||6'3, 215||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8568||5||2||16||40.0%||1.3%||3.2||80.0%||40.0%||0.72|
|David Eldridge||WR-Z||6'1, 170||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8544||2||2||88||100.0%||0.5%||44.0||100.0%||100.0%||3.78|
|Brendan Marshall||TE||6'5, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8453|
|Tanner Cowley||WR||6'4, 225||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8320|
|Joe Reed||WR||6'1, 198||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8575|
|Hasise Dubois||WR||6'3, 195||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8550|
|Cole Blackman||WR||6'1, 193||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8529|
|Aidan Howard||WR||6'4, 180||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8355|
4. Got any actual receivers?
Mizzell has been an athlete posing as a running back. The former blue-chipper wasn't nearly as effective as his backups last year, averaging 4.1 yards per carry to their 5.6, but his versatility became a significant threat. He led the Hoos with 75 catches, and when you combine carries and targets, he averaged 21.9 intended touches per game for 115.3 yards. That's not bad.
Zaccheaus did a pretty solid Mizzell impression as a freshman. He had 66 intended touches -- 33 carries, 33 targets -- and gained a combined 478 yards.
Neither are big backs, but Mizzell and Zaccheaus could serve as pretty strong muses for Anae; they can line up in the backfield and motion out wide, and they are decent threats in either place. Plus, Anae has all-or-nothing back Albert Reid and sophomore Evan Butts to play with.
These are all pretty interesting pieces, but none are wideouts. UVA had only two wideouts targeted more than 22 times last year, and both are gone. T.J. Thorpe's production out of the slot was replaceable, but Canaan Severin had a nice year, catching 54 passes and averaging 10.3 yards per target. On a per-target basis, senior Keeon Johnson was reasonably effective, but he's the only returning WR who caught more than two passes.
Johns was decent on passing downs last year, and a lot of that had to do with Mizzell, an excellent checkdown option on second-and-long. But there will be plenty of times this year when a checkdown option is suboptimal. Will Johnson be able to carry more of a load? Will junior Doni Dowling figure out how to parlay a strong spring into a strong fall? Will sophomore David Eldridge, a speedy former mid-three-star recruit, do more than flash upside?
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Eric Smith||RT||6'5, 300||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8219||12||32|
|Jackson Matteo||C||6'5, 290||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8005||12||15|
|Michael Mooney||LT||6'6, 290||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8479||5||14|
|Jack English||LT||6'5, 300||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8059||7||7|
|Sean Karl||LG||6'6, 310||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8465||2||2|
|Jack McDonald||RG||6'5, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8519||2||2|
|Sadiq Olanrewaju||LT||6'6, 300||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8568||0||2|
|Eric Tetlow||C||6'6, 305||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8253||0||0|
|Steven Moss||OG||6'4, 300||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9157||0||0|
|Jared Cohen (UNC)||OG||6'3, 310||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8771||0||0|
|Jake Fieler||OT||6'5, 295||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8800||0||0|
|Ben Knutson||OT||6'8, 280||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8400|
5. Lanky and experienced
At BYU, offensive line coach Garett Tujague was used to working with road graders up front; BYU's top eight returning linemen this year average 6'4, 313.
From a recruiting perspective, Tujague inherits a more talented line in Charlottesville, but it's lankier; the top nine returnees average 6'6, 298.
That's probably fine, considering the likely pass-first nature. UVA was pretty good in pass protection last year and poor in run blocking, and at first glance, it's not hard to assume that will continue in 2016. UVA's line will be a mix of low-three-star upperclassmen (seven of whom have starting experience) and four- or high-three-star youngsters. UNC transfer Jared Cohen gives the Cavaliers another high-upside piece.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.2%||93||Succ. Rt. +||99.9||68|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||26.7||122||Off. FP+||29.3||85|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.4||68||Redzone S&P+||99.4||75|
|Q1 Rk||64||1st Down Rk||83|
|Q2 Rk||80||2nd Down Rk||89|
|Q3 Rk||71||3rd Down Rk||75|
6. A good, old-fashioned 3-4
At their best, Mendenhall's BYU defenses combined beef and tenacity up front with speed on the edges and physical play-makers in the secondary. The Cougars were able to invade the backfield without sending six defenders, and they were happy to get physical.
After dominating with linebacker Kyle Van Noy in 2012 (sixth in Def. S&P+) and 2013 (13th), the Cougars had only a decent defense in 2014 (49th) and 2015 (34th). Talent matters, and Mendenhall didn't quite have the right mix recently.
Mendenhall brought coordinator Nick Howell to Charlottesville, so we know what attempted identity we can expect to see. Mendenhall wants to attack the run on standard downs and the pass on passing downs, and his units tend to play well in the redzone.
In 2016, the UVA defense's success will depend on two things: how well the line reloads and how well the secondary rebounds. The former is replacing last year's top three and is moving from four down linemen to three. The latter was supposed to be a strength last year but couldn't keep anybody healthy and bombed.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Mark Hall||DE||6'2, 245||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8557||6||10.0||1.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Donte Wilkins||NT||6'1, 290||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8542||12||8.5||1.4%||1.5||0.5||0||0||0||0|
|Andrew Brown||DE||6'4, 280||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9941||10||4.5||0.7%||2.5||1.0||0||2||0||0|
|Andre Miles-Redmond||DE||6'4, 280||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8650||8||3.5||0.6%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|DE||6'6, 290||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8349|
|James Trucilla||NT||6'1, 270||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8417|
|Steven Wright||DE||6'4, 235||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8346|
|Christian Brooks||DE||6'5, 240||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8113|
|Christian Baumgardner||DE||6'4, 230||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8071|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Micah Kiser||ILB||6'2, 240||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8778||12||90.5||14.7%||13.0||7.5||0||2||3||1|
|Zach Bradshaw||ILB||6'3, 235||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8532||10||38.5||6.3%||3.5||1.5||0||0||1||0|
|Chris Peace||OLB||6'1, 240||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||12||9.5||1.5%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Malcolm Cook||OLB||6'1, 205||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8727||3||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|C.J. Stalker||OLB||6'2, 225||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8690||2||1.5||0.2%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Cory Jones||OLB||6'5, 215||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8159|
|Jahvoni Simmons||ILB||6'1, 240||RSFr.||4 stars (5.9)||0.9310|
|Dominic Sheppard||ILB||6'2, 240||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8575|
|Gladimir Paul||OLB||6'2, 210||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8120|
|Juwan Moye||OLB||6'3, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8391|
|Landan Word||ILB||6'3, 245||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8305|
|Matt Terrell||OLB||6'4, 227||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8016|
7. Compatibility check:
The shift from a 4-3 to a 3-4 can be awkward. Your light defensive ends shift to outside linebacker, your light defensive tackles might shift to defensive end, you might not have the mammoth presence at nose tackle. You might not have the speed/size combination you need at OLB.
On a scale of 1-10, I would rate Virginia's 3-4 readiness around a 5. Former blue-chipper Andrew Brown could be custom-made for life as a 3-4 end, and the linebacker duo of Micah Kiser and Zach Bradshaw should do just fine (or better than fine) from the ILB posts.
But there's almost no proven disruptive ability on the edges at linebacker, and no lineman is listed at higher than 290 pounds. If former star recruits like Brown and linebackers C.J. Stalker and Jahvoni Simmons can begin playing up to their perceived potential, UVA might have enough athleticism to get by up front. Otherwise it might take a couple of years of recruiting and development to get this unit where Mendenhall wants it.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Quin Blanding||SS||6'2, 205||Jr.||5 stars (6.1)||0.9966||12||91.5||14.9%||1||0||1||3||1||0|
|Kelvin Rainey||FS||6'1, 195||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8506||12||55.0||8.9%||3||0||0||3||0||0|
|Tim Harris||CB||6'2, 200||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.9150||10||30.0||4.9%||3||0||1||6||0||0|
|Wilfred Wahee||SS||5'10, 200||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8055||10||29.5||4.8%||1||0||0||4||0||2|
|Darious Latimore||CB||6'0, 165||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8457||7||13.0||2.1%||0||0||2||4||1||0|
|Juan Thornhill||CB||6'1, 200||So.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8587||3||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kirk Garner||FS||5'11, 180||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||0.8761||12||1.5||0.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Chris Sharp||S||6'2, 195||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8286|
|Jordan Mack||DB||6'3, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8537|
|Deedrick Daniels||DB||6'0, 168||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8219|
|Nick Grant||DB||6'1, 170||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8199|
8. Step 1: Find cornerbacks. Step 2: Keep them on the field.
I expected this secondary to be one of the ACC's best last year, and maybe it would have been with better health and more help from a below-average pass rush. Alas, it got neither of those things.
The Cavaliers ranked just 82nd in Adj. Sack Rate -- Kiser and since-departed linebacker Mike Moore had 14.5 sacks, and the rest of the team had just 11.5 -- and only two defensive backs were able to stay on the field. Eleven DBs averaged at least half a tackle per game, and nine missed time.
Heading into 2016, safety appears well-set with Quin Blanding, Kelvin Rainey, Wilfred Wahee, and Kirk Garner.
Cornerback is a mystery. Of last year's top five corners, only two are back, and they missed a combined seven games. Tim Harris has flashed upside for a couple of years, and Darious Latimore was active as a freshman -- he had six passes defensed to only 13 tackles, which means he either missed a ton of tackles or made as many plays as he allowed. In theory, if the projected starting four of Blanding, Rainey, Harris, and Latimore is able to stay on the field, UVA could have what it needs. But especially after last year, that's quite an "if."
|Nicholas Conte||6'3, 225||Sr.||52||44.7||5||11||10||40.4%|
|Dylan Sims||6'0, 190||Sr.||60||63.3||30||1||50.0%|
|Olamide Zaccheaus||KR||5'8, 190||So.||28||19.3||0|
|Taquan Mizzell||KR||5'10, 195||Sr.||7||13.7||0|
|Olamide Zaccheaus||PR||5'8, 190||So.||5||6.8||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||48|
|Field Goal Efficiency||47|
|Punt Return Success Rate||97|
|Kick Return Success Rate||120|
|Punt Success Rate||44|
|Kickoff Success Rate||34|
9. Nice legs
UVA got almost nothing from its return game in 2015. Maurice Canady had a 74-yard punt return against William & Mary, and that was about it from either kick or punt returns. But the Cavaliers still had a top-50 special teams unit becaus eof its legs. Ian Frye was a strong place-kicker, Nicholas Conte averaged nearly 45 yards per punt, and Dylan Sims knocked half of his kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Conte and Sims should assure that this unit has at least a couple of strengths, and goodness knows that Zaccheaus and Mizzell have the athletic potential to develop into good return men. (Mizzell averaged a decent 23.1 yards per kick return in 2014.)
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|5-Nov||at Wake Forest||74||-2.2||45%|
|19-Nov||at Georgia Tech||54||-6.1||36%|
|26-Nov||at Virginia Tech||32||-10.9||26%|
|Projected wins: 5.1|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-4.8% (71)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||62 / 48|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||-9 / 1.2|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-4.2|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||72% (80%, 64%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||4.0 (0.0)|
10. Do the Hoos have a surprise in them?
Sometimes the win probabilities can create a pretty strong dividing line. Projected 68th in S&P+, Virginia is given between a 36 and 51 percent chance of winning in seven of 12 games, with likely wins against Richmond and CMU and likely losses against Oregon, Louisville, and Virginia Tech.
That sets a pretty clear path for 2016. Of those seven games in which the Cavaliers are either slight underdogs or the tiniest of favorites -- at UConn, at Duke, Pitt, North Carolina, at Wake Forest, Miami, at Georgia Tech -- UVA has to win four to reach bowl eligibility. That probably won't happen. But a win at UConn in particular would likely create a 3-1 start and a little bit of early buzz.
Mendenhall was by any account a solid hire. He has 99 wins to his name, he produces a lot of academic All-Americans (which will play well at UVA). At a school without power-program status, he produced teams that were usually stronger than their UVA counterparts.
But the ACC has made a lot of strong hires. It will be interesting to see how much of a niche Mendenhall can carve out in an increasingly competitive conference. After the challenge of ushering BYU into independent life, he seems excited about starting over.