- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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It is no secret that Virginia has played some of the toughest nonconference schedules in the country over the past several years.
This season presents the most difficult schedule to date, with two games against Power 5 teams in Notre Dame and UCLA, and another against Fiesta Bowl champion Boise State. But athletic director Craig Littlepage makes no excuses about his scheduling philosophy at a program that has struggled to gain any traction under coach Mike London.
"The two power conference games and/or an equivalent FCS game, which in our region games like William &Mary, Richmond, VMI do have some level of local interest and there is history behind those games, and then one other game, whether it's a guarantee game or something else," Littlepage said recently. "That formula seems to be what we're comfortable with."
The two power conference games have ended up being more challenging than perhaps UVa even anticipated. When the decision was made to play UCLA, the Bruins weren't a Top 25 program and Notre Dame wasn't a part of the ACC scheduling plan. So that has increased the level of difficulty in their schedules both last year and this year.
Given the schedule challenges last season, it is hard not to wonder how Virginia would have fared with a slightly easier nonconference slate. The Hoos finished 5-7, going 2-2 in nonconference play.
"Or we would have been in a bowl game had we gone 4-4 in the conference," Littlepage says, citing the Hoos' 3-5 ACC record. "I look at it from the standpoint of you've got to do the job in your conference. If you do the job in your conference, that will lead to success in terms of what you want to achieve as far as bowl games and everything else. That's where so much of my focus is. What are we doing in the conference?"
To that point, Virginia had opportunities to beat North Carolina, Duke and Virginia Tech last season -- all bowl teams. London got another season to prove himself in Charlottesville, so perhaps the best gauge for his future isn't how he does not against Notre Dame, UCLA and Boise, but against ACC teams.
The nonconference slate does ease up in the years to come. Next year, UVa makes the return trip to Oregon, but also has games scheduled against UConn, Central Michigan and Richmond. A series against Stanford was replaced with Indiana, though Littlepage said that had nothing to do with trying to ease up on the nonconference schedule difficulty.
"There's not a conscious effort of any type," he said. "We did have a two-game series with Indiana back probably 4, 5 years ago. It was a good series in that the game at Bloomington was a very good game, we had to win in the last minute. We had a great turnout of Virginia alumni and fans who went to Bloomington. We think Indiana is a good opponent, great institution, outstanding programs across the board. Probably dates fit that have been in consideration among a couple other things but beyond that, there's nothing else to read into it."
Maybe not. But it does stand to reason Virginia should benefit from the switch, and potentially come out on the winning end of its nonconference schedule. The last time that happened? The 2011 season.
1dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
3dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney