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Posts Tagged ‘Mike London’

Pick 10, F.B.S. Notebook: Week 2 (Sept. 8)

Let’s not beat around the bush: this isn’t a great week. I mean, it’s great – better than what we’re used to, better than any non-football weekend – but it’s not great, all things considered. There’s no Michigan and Alabama to end the night; there’s no prime-time game on ABC at all, in fact. Instead, we’ll close our night with Nebraska and U.C.L.A., Georgia and Missouri and, later on, Arizona and Oklahoma State. Very, very intriguing games. But with perhaps the exception of Georgia, depending on how highly you think of the Bulldogs, these games don’t carry any title implications. That doesn’t make the games any less interesting – or change the fact that every game, especially while teams find their footing, carries some level of importance. Let’s run down the entire weekend’s action.

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    No. 48: Virginia

    Here’s one thing to love about Mike London: he’s not intimidated by expectations. When told that most expected Virginia to finish last in the Coastal division heading into 2010, London replied, “We’ve got ‘em right where we want ‘em.” Throughout last season, as the Cavaliers added narrow upon narrow win to reach bowl play, London never seemed surprised by his team’s success; it was merely part of the “process,” which is one of his favorite words. This process continues in 2012, with a slight change. Instead of sneaking up on the A.C.C., Virginia will be expected to battle Virginia Tech for not only in-state supremacy but also a spot in the conference title game. The Al Groh-era teams, based on history, would have failed to reach these lofty expectations. Even if it’s too early to anoint Virginia as the league’s next in line, we can say one thing with certainty about these Cavaliers: they won’t shy away from the challenge.

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      Starting With McGee, Branching Out

      If Jeff Long was serious about starting Arkansas’ coaching search immediately after last night’s press conference, it stands to reason that the Razorbacks are in the market for a new head coach in time for this coming season. It’s not too late in the game for this to be a possibility, even if a new arrival wouldn’t step on campus until the summer, well after the team has concluded spring drills. On one side, such a rapid learning curve — for coach and team alike — might lead candidates who would otherwise be interested in the opportunity to think twice. However, it’s only so often that a head coach can inherit a team quite as talented as these Razorbacks.

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        The Year in Review: Virginia (8-4, 5-3)

        Virginia brought Jimbo Fisher to his knees. Crumpling to his knees, to be exact: Fisher fell, head in hands, devastated, defeated. The Cavaliers had this effect on people — and teams — in 2011, Mike London’s second year with the program. Slippery eels, these Cavaliers, and unpredictable. Georgia Tech saw a team that barely escaped Idaho in overtime and licked its lips; Virginia derailed the then-undefeated Yellow Jackets, perhaps convincing this team that it could hang with the A.C.C.’s elite. Two weeks later, the Cavaliers broke Miami’s will. Three weeks after that, Fisher fell to his knees. Heading into the final weekend of the season, the Cavaliers controlled their Coastal division fate.

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          At Long Last, the 2012 A.C.C. Schedule

          Contrary to popular thought — something I also believed — the delay in the release of the 2012 A.C.C. schedule wasn’t due to Florida State, which was digging deep in its search for a replacement for Big 12-bound West Virginia, but rather to Georgia Tech, which until last Friday had yet to find an opponent for its open date on Sept. 8. Technically, the primary issue for the Yellow Jackets wasn’t finding an opponent: the program has already agreed to terms with Middle Tennessee State on that Saturday. But after the A.C.C. opted to pit Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech on Monday, Sept. 3, the Jackets wanted to exchange the Blue Raiders for a F.C.S. opponent — due to the short week, the Jackets didn’t want to take the chance that a lower-tier F.B.S. team could pull the upset, as slim as that chance might be.

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            Closing the Borders in Virginia

            Closing a fence around the State of Virginia requires not one team but two. Virginia joined rival Virginia Tech in doing so this past winter, Mike London’s first full recruiting cycle with the program, but it was not until this summer that we saw both the Cavaliers and Hokies team together to force national powers to look elsewhere for their top out-of-state talent. What does this mean for our two Virginia programs?

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              No. 78: Virginia

              Four of the top 10 high school seniors in the State of Virginia, according to the list compiled by Rivals.com, signed with the hometown Cavaliers in February; two signed with Virginia Tech. What does this small example say to me? It says that Al Groh has left the building, taking with him the malaise that began on the field and, slowly but surely, crept into every facet of Virginia football under his watch. Mike London has been a breath of fresh air, on the sidelines and otherwise, and Virginia Tech is taking notice. Does this mean the Cavaliers are going to actually win a Commonwealth Cup at some point in the next five years? No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that the playing field is being leveled, which is a start.

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                Spring Storylines: Virginia

                I don’t envy the rebuilding project lying ahead of Mike London, even if the worst is behind him. Hopefully, I should add: Virginia was simply awful in 2010, London’s first season back in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers lost to Duke, which should tell you all you need to know about last fall; overall, a beautiful victory over Miami (Fla.) provided the lone highlight of the season, as the team’s remaining three victories came against Richmond, V.M.I. and Eastern Michigan. So the hope — hopefully — is that rock bottom has been reached. If it hasn’t, we’ll know soon.

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                  The Countdown

                  A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.