By: Hunter Schmidt
College football fans…
Thanks to all of you who read Pt. 1 of the “Teams to Play, Teams to Fade” series that we are doing here at Edge Sports Network. If you haven’t read Pt. 1, read it here.
Most programs will be kicking off their fall camps this week which means we are that much closer to the start of the college football season. The next couple weeks will decide position battles all over the country. Some of the most interesting decisions always take place at the quarterback position, arguably the most important position for any team. Keep an eye on these battles as they will impact how teams gel together offensively early on, especially if teams are rotating between two or three guys for the first few weeks of the season.
TEAMS TO PLAY
– Virginia … Bronco Mendenhall compiled a 99-43 record over 11 years at BYU before taking over at Virginia in 2016. He won two games in his first year, six in his second and last year he led the Cavaliers to an eight win season which included a 28-0 win over South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. He has this program trending up and landed a very talented recruiting class that includes top-100 defensive tackle Jowon Briggs.
The biggest reason that Virginia can build on their success from 2018 is Bryce Perkins. Perkins passed for over 2,600 yards and fell just 77 yards short of having a thousand yard season on the ground. They lost Olamide Zaccheaus to the NFL, but they bring back four of their top five pass catchers from a year ago. The running game should be able to thrive with PK Kier and a stable of running backs assuming they get sturdy offensive line play once again.
Virginia returns eight starters from what was arguably a top-20 defense in the entire country last year. The defense is going to be led by two future NFL players in Bryce Hall and Jordan Mack. This is the most talent that Bronco has had on the defensive side of the ball in his fourth year at Virginia and I fully expect this team to lock down teams in the ACC outside of Clemson.
The toughest game on their schedule is when they travel to South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. They get to play Florida State in Charlottesville, travel to Miami off a bye, and face Virginia Tech at home the last week of the season in a match-up that could decide the ACC Coastal. Expect Virginia to avoid the disappointing losses from last season (they lost three games by four points or less) and play Clemson for the ACC title the first week of December.
TEAMS TO FADE
Previously: Ole Miss
– Kentucky … Mark Stoops is coming off his best season at Kentucky, a 10-3 record that was capped off with a win over Penn State in the bowl game. The good news for Kentucky is that QB Terry Wilson is back and explosive wide receiver Lynn Bowden will be his top target once again. That’s the good news for Kentucky. Unfortunately, there is more bad news than good.
Kentucky loses two of the best players to ever wear the Wildcat uniform in running back Benny Snell and defensive end Josh Allen. The problem is that they didn’t just lose those guys, they lost seven starters total from one of the best defenses in college football last year. Kash Daniel will be back to lead the defense and he is extremely talented, but the problem is he won’t have much help against an improved SEC East.
Kentucky found the perfect formula last year with an offense that didn’t turn the ball over, a running game that could bleed the clock, and a defense to bail them out of games that they had no business winning. The SEC East was down last year but should be tougher this year with the improvements of Florida, Missouri and Tennessee. I just have a hard time seeing Kentucky finding the same devil magic they did last year after replacing all of these starters and taking two sneaky non-conference games to start the year against Toledo and Eastern Michigan. Don’t be surprised if they drop a game to their MAC opponents before losing to Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina in consecutive weeks to start the season 1-4.
Cover photo via: Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics
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