Everything was moving along right on schedule for the Virginia Cavaliers until 2020. A major question for most college football programs is what to take from last season.
Travel disruptions, unbalanced scheduling and roster limitations all plagued programs to various degrees. The Cavaliers were no different. After back-to-back winning seasons and a Coastal Division championship in 2019, the team battled through a disappointing 5-5 season that ended with a 33-15 loss to rival Virginia Tech.
QB Brennan Armstrong returns to an intriguing offense that ranked 80th in yards per play and averaged 28 points per game. If the Cavaliers are going to improve on those numbers, they are going to do it behind a Top 30 rushing attack that will have to be more diverse this upcoming season. The committee of running backs led by Mike Hollins should have a larger impact and take some of the load off their quarterback. The offense line is returning almost the entire group from last season that graded out seventh in the country in success rate. That's a huge reason to be bullish about Virginia's offense.
Armstrong ran for over 550 yards last season and 5 TDs. His mobility, paired with versatile WR Kaytaon Thompson, gives the Cavaliers' offense an explosive play element that they lacked in high-leverage situations last season. The Virginia offense was 99th in third-down conversion percentage, moving the chains in under 35% of opportunities. The most valuable takeaway from last season for the Cavaliers was the experience gained by their quarterback, who is now looking to make a big leap in 2021.
— Virginia Cavaliers (@VirginiaSports) August 12, 2021
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has a chance to get his football program headed back in the right direction after taking a small step back in 2020. The Virginia Cavaliers' win total is set at 6.5 after a 5-5 season. Football is a game that is won in the trenches and Virginia can control the game script with that offensive line.
It's easy to predict what happens in Scott Stadium
The schedule allows Mendenhall's group to establish confidence early in the season with two home games against William & Mary and Illinois. This year's home schedule isn't too challenging with their toughest matchup being the season finale against Virginia Tech. Virginia is 17-2 straight up at home over the past three seasons so I'm comfortable they will get the job done at Scott Stadium.
To get over the win total at 6.5, they are going to have to find a win or two on the road where it's much more difficult. Winnable games would be at Louisville in early October, or at Pittsburgh before the season finale. The Pittsburgh matchup has potential on paper, but having it as a classic sandwich game in between Notre Dame and their biggest rival lessens my confidence.
The odds are +105 for Virginia, which implies there is 49% probability Mendenhall can get them to seven wins. The game at Louisville is winnable and I like the Cavaliers to be a surprise team this season by winning some tight games in the trenches. You can get the Cavaliers at plus money for over 6.5 wins at BetMGM. Another profitable betting angle to keep in mind this season is their success at home. In addition to being 17-2 straight up, Virginia holds the fourth-best home winning percentage ATS over the past five seasons among all schools in the Power Five. Their 18-13-1 record is best in the ACC.
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