clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2021 Virginia college football preview: Cavaliers expect bounce-back season

Virginia saw gradual improvement each year under Bronco Mendenhall until falling off a bit in 2020. Coming off a pandemic-impacted season, the Cavaliers should be much improved.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers could be among the most improved teams from last season given what we have seen from this program under Bronco Mendenhall. Up until 2020, Virginia has seen an improvement record-wise in all four years in this position.

Virginia finished 5-5 last season, but it would be a surprise to see the Cavaliers held out of a bowl game this year. Mendenhall is among the most underrated coaches in college football, and fans should be excited for what he has done and can do for the program.

The Cavaliers went a hot streak to end last season, winning four of their last five games, and it will be interesting to see how that big finish will translate heading into 2021.

2020 Season Review

  • 5-5, 4-5 ACC (9th)
  • Lost four of first five games, won four of last five, lost every road game on the schedule

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 32
ESPN Returning Production: 66% overall (77th): 72% offense (63rd), 61% defense (95th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 11th in ACC
Returning starters: 8/11 offense, 6/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Brennan Armstrong (Junior)

Virginia will roll with Brennan Armstrong as the No. 1 quarterback for the second consecutive season. He struggled to not turn the ball over in 2020, especially early on in the season. Armstrong threw two interceptions in each of his first three games before settling down into the position. He has an experienced offensive line in front of him, and pass catchers will need to step up. A huge part of his game is running the ball, and he led Virginia in rushing with 552 yards on the ground last season.

Offense (non-QB): WR Billy Kemp (Senior)

Virginia suffered a hit to their passing game this spring when receiver Lavel Davis Jr. tore his ACL. He played a key role early in his college career in 2020, but Billy Kemp will likely have more coverage going his way. He caught 67 passes for 644 yards and a touchdown last season. He certainly developed a connection with Armstrong, and that should continue to grow.

Defense: LB Nick Jackson (Junior)

Virginia has one of the best linebackers in the conference with Nick Jackson, and he will be a key part of a defense that needs to be much better than it was last season. The Cavaliers allowed 6.3 yards per play in 2020, which ranked No. 105 in the country. The defensive side of the ball could be the X factor this season in determining whether this is a fringe bowl team or a division title contender.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 55th overall: 55th offense, 57th defense, 62nd special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 56th overall: 47th offense, 62nd defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +25000
To win ACC: +3300
Win total: 6 (Over -134, Under +106)

2020 Against The Spread: 7-3-0
2020 Point Total: Over 7-3-0

2021 Virginia Schedule

2021 Virginia Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 William & Mary 7:30 pm/ESPN3 N/A
Saturday, Sep. 11 Illinois 11:00 am/ESPN UVA -11
Saturday, Sep. 18 at North Carolina 7:30 pm/ACCN N/A
Friday, Sep. 24 Wake Forest 7:00 pm/ESPN2 N/A
Thursday, Sep. 30 at Miami 7:30 pm/ESPN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 at Louisville TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 Duke TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 Georgia Tech TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 at BYU TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 Open TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 Notre Dame TBA UVA +6
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Pitt TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 Virginia Tech TBA N/A