Poll: How will Virginia fare against Maryland?
"When you come into a new situation, you always want your senior leadership to buy in because they're the ones that set the tone and the pace for some of the young guys that are in the program."
Saturday will mark the final home game in the careers of 32 fourth- and fifth-year seniors on Virginia's roster. More than most outsiders thought, a good number of those seniors have had a meaningful impact on the team during Mike London's first season at the helm in Charlottesville. Heck, I'm sure during the summer guys like Keith Payne, Darnell Carter and Mike Parker wouldn't have been able to predict they would see as many snaps as they have.
Even Marc Verica -- who a decent portion of the Virginia fan base has wanted supplanted in the starting lineup by a younger option since, oh, Week Five -- probably deep down thought there was a good chance he'd have been pulled in favor of Ross Metheny or Michael Rocco by this point in the season.
And yet, London has stuck by the group of seniors, for better or worse, as he continues to transition the Cavaliers into the program he wants it to be. It would have been understandable if London had elected to hand the reins over to the young guys and let them take their lumps, all in the name of development for the future.
Instead, Payne is tied for No. 3 in the nation in rushing touchdowns (14). Verica holds the school record for most passing yards in a single game (417) and ranks No. 8 in program history in career passing yards (4,275). Dontrelle Inman came within two yards of the school's single game receiving record last week against Duke. Carter seemingly came out of nowhere to become perhaps the team's most versatile linebacker.
But most importantly for London and his staff, an overwhelming majority of the seniors bought in to the message the coaches were preaching. And that, in turn, had a trickle-down effect on the team's younger players. Sure, 4-5 is not the sexiest record out there, but most people would agree Virginia has taken considerable strides since this time a year ago. And that can be attributed in part to many of the players who initially figured to have little or no role on the team in their final collegiate season.
All of that said, let's get down to business. Maryland is 6-3 and still in contention to play for the ACC title. Given that Maryland's final two home games are against Florida State and N.C. State, the Terrapins would do well to pick up a win over Virginia to further their cause. The Cavaliers, then, will have an opportunity to play the spoiler on their senior day.
So, how do you think Virginia will fare against Maryland? Feel free to expand on your choices in the comments section below and/or email me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.