If the last time Virginia football had a six-game losing streak is any indication, Coach Mike London would be wise to avoid that distinction. It was only three years ago, and it happened to be the final six games of the Al Groh era.
London was hired to replace Groh, and after an encouraging second season at the helm, this week’s game against Wake Forest represents something of a crossroads for his regime. Though job is likely not on the line, the Cavaliers are dangerously close to watching their season freefall.
They already have five consecutive losses since beginning the season 2-0, and following next week’s bye, the schedule beefs up considerably once again. Every opponent left currently has an above-.500 record. Should Virginia not get past Coach Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons, who are 3-3 after starting the season 2-0, London could be staring at a 2-10 season.
How do they avoid that fate? Here are some story lines to watch Saturday at Scott Stadium.
Yards into points
Virginia’s current five-game losing streak is more about its offense’s inability to turn yards into points than the team’s season-long quarterback controversy. The Cavaliers have actually out-gained their opponent the past three weeks, but are averaging just 25 points per game during that time. Alabama transfer Phillip Sims will get his third straight start and running back Perry Jones (concussion) has been cleared to play Saturday, and the Cavaliers are hopeful this is the weekend their offense comes together.
Young and old
Because of its poor record, Virginia finds itself balancing playing for now and planning for the future. London gave his younger players more action than ever last week against Maryland and for the most part they thrived. But he’s also aware of the aspirations of grizzled veterans like running back Perry Jones and linebackers Steve Greer and La’Roy Reynolds, who have become pillars of this rebuilding project. It will be interesting to see how London handles that dynamic. “There’s an understanding that this is it for a lot of them,” he said this week.
Turn over a new leaf
Virginia’s defense had an encouraging performance against Maryland last week, holding the Terrapins to minus-two rushing yards. On Saturday, the Cavaliers face one of two teams in the ACC averaging fewer points per game this season, and Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price has seen his completion percentage fall to 52.1 percent thus far. But Virginia is still tied for last in the country in turnover margin (minus-13), having created just four turnovers all season.
My prediction: Virginia 27, Wake Forest 24
But what do you think? Will Virginia end its five-game losing streak entering the bye week? Or does Wake Forest send the Cavaliers spiraling even further than they already are? Vote in the poll below and let me know how you think Saturday’s game plays out in the comments section.