It's sad that I know as little about Virginia's season as I did about South Florida's heading into last week's game. For a supposed rivalry game, I'm not that motivated - and this is coming from someone who made the trek to Charlottesville for the infamous Orange Bowl game of 1997. It's hard enough to get news of the lousy football team you root for from 3,000 miles away, let alone the equally dismal teams they share a conference with. So here's a quick rundown, if for no other reason than to get me up to speed. I ask the question, Which team is more disappointed in their season?
Preseason Expectations UNC and Virginia occupied the fourth and fifth spots in all the Coastal Division predictions before the start of the season. Which team had which spot was a stylistic choice for the particular columnist writing the story, but neither team was picked to do better than .500 ball and a bottom of the barrel bowl. Both coaches were early hot seat candidates, and both preached the gospel of resurging teams and incremental improvement. There's no difference here. Disappointment - Tie
Nonconference Play If nothing else, the Rutgers loss looks better with each passing week as the two teams' fortunes continue to deserve. The Tar Heels' Furman game remains the high point of the season, and the South Florida loss was humbling, but at least to a team that could be in a December bowl. Virginia's lone conference win was an overtime thriller over 3-4 Wyoming. They rolled over for Pittsburgh (Rutgers-level respectable), Western Michigan (middle of the pack MAC team), and East Carolina (That's just outright hilasrious). Now I can't argue at this point whether Carolina would have faired any better against that schedule, but at least they went out and lost to better teams. Disappointment - UVa.
Conference Games UNC is 0-3. Not many thought going into the season they'd have much chance against Virginia Tech, Clemson, or Miami, so the disappointments minimal, but if everyone had forseen the poor play coming out of Blacksburg and Florida they may have given UNC a second look. The missed opportunities a good Tar Heel team could have taken advantage of this year is positively galling. Virginia has the obligatory conference win against Duke - an impressive 37-0 rout over a team that's managed to give Wake Forest and Alabama a scare. The Georgia Tech loss is to be expected, but the Maryland collapse is pretty demoralizing. Still, the Cavaliers have shown up for the ACC games, which is more than the Tar Heels can say. Disappointment - UNC.
Administrative Support Quoth Craig Littlepage: "I think that Al is a fine football coach. There's no doubt in my mind that he can get the job done here at the University of Virginia." Dick Baddour has merely said Bunting's job security will not be discussed before the end of the season. Disappointment - UVa.
So where does that leave tonight's game. Will the Wahoo squad that beat Duke or the one that was runover by East Carolina show up? (Conversely, will UNC play like Duke or ECU? And are those the best options at the moment?) This is one team's chance to turn their season around - not fully, but at least to pull themselves up into mediocrity. I'd like to think UNC will do it, but Virginia just looks less hapless at the moment. A lot of good Tar Heel teams have been broken in Charlottesville in the last 25 years. I can't see this poor one holding together.