The Virginia Cavaliers have had a disappointing 2016 season so far. They own the worst record in the ACC (2-6), which breaks down like this:
|vs RICH||at ORE||at CONN||vs CMU||at DUKE||vs PITT||vs UNC||vs LOU|
|RESULT||L 37-20||L 44-26||L 13-10||W 49-35||W 34-20||L 45-31||L 35-14||L 32-25|
Ranks are based on the Sagarin ratings. For context, UVA is currently ranked 82nd and Wake is currently ranked 69th.
The black eyes that jump out are the losses to Richmond and Connecticut, both of which are currently ranked outside of the top 100. The Richmond loss, by 17 points at home in the season opener, set the tone for a dismal season. UVA’s biggest win this year came at Duke. That’s arguably Wake’s best win as well (in a rough tie with the win at Indiana). Virginia has played a relatively tough schedule (44th in the country, compared to Wake’s 58th). That’s been particularly true recently, with the past three games coming against Pitt, UNC, and Louisville.
Last week was particularly brutal for UVA. Playing 5th ranked Louisville at home, the Hoos were up by 10 points late in the third quarter. After three consecutive scoring drives put Louisville ahead, UVA managed to retake a one-point lead with less than two minutes remaining in the game. However, Virginia’s defense was unable to stop Louisville from driving 75 yards in 1:44 and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Of course, Wake also suffered a loss last week, but it was disappointing in a different way. Coming out flat and losing a winnable game against Army is upsetting, but hopefully it was a wake-up call that will put the team’s feet to the fire this week. On the other hand, playing your heart out and coming this close to pulling off the huge upset, only to have it slip away in the final seconds, might be flat out demoralizing.
I’m kind of grasping at pop-psychology straws, here. The truth is, I think these teams are much more similar than their records indicate. Vegas favors Wake by a field goal, and Sagarin favors Wake by just under a touchdown. This is a game that could certainly go either way. I think Wake playing at its best would beat a passive UVA nine times out of ten, but the opposite is probably just as true.
The Deacs should be hungry. They let one slip away last week, but they still have reasons to play hard. Immediately, a win gets the team to a bowl game for the first time since 2011. A win also gives Wake a chance to finish the year at .500 in the ACC, and above .500 overall, for the first time since 2008. And, I suspect winning or losing will make a huge difference in how the fans (and possibly the team) feel about the season. After last week’s performance, a loss to Virginia might cause a lot of the excitement and goodwill the program built up this season to evaporate, particularly as we head into games against Louisville and Clemson. Bowl hopes would be hanging by a thread. On the other hand, a win would suggest that things are back on track and that the Army game may have just been an unfortunate fluke.
And if the squad needs anything else to build an appetite:
Sorry Train, but I don’t want to meet Virginia. Let’s get a win and beat Virginia. Go Deacs!