When: Aug. 31
The skinny: Virginia heads to Heinz Field to open the season against an ACC opponent for the first time since 2003, when it opened against Duke. The Panthers have a reputation as a physical, run-first program, but this year they make take on a different look under new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, who built Massachusetts into one of the nation’s top passing teams.
Kenny Pickett returns for his second season as Pitt’s starting quarterback, and he has two of his top receiving targets back from a year ago in Maurice Ffrench and Taysir Mack, who averaged 22.3 yards per catch.
VS. WILLIAM & MARY
When: Sept. 6
The skinny: Former Virginia head coach Mike London returns to Scott Stadium in his first season at William & Mary. The Cavaliers last played the Tribe in 2017 and won, 28-10. They don’t play annually, but UVa has won nine of the past 10 meetings. Virginia last lost to William & Mary in 2009.
The Tribe's strength is the secondary, which ranked No. 4 in the CAA last season in pass defense (190 ypg) and is led by safety Isaiah Laster, who snagged four interceptions last fall. William & Mary struggled offensively last season, though, finishing dead last in the CAA in scoring (13.6 ppg) and total offense (241.5 ypg).
VS. FLORIDA STATE
When: Sept. 14
The skinny: Virginia faces Florida State for the first time since 2014, and it does so in Scott Stadium for the first time since 2010. Struggles on the offensive line played a big part in the Seminoles' 5-7 record last year. Their 91.1 rushing yards a game ranked last in the ACC and their 361.2 total yards of offense per game ranked No. 12, but they’re hoping those numbers will improve in new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles’ wide-open spread attack.
James Blackman looks like the favorite to start at quarterback for the ‘Noles. He’ll throw to explosive receiver Tamorrion Terry and hand the ball to dynamic running back Cam Akers. While the offense is a work in progress, Florida State’s defense may prove to be one of the best in the conference, led by defensive back Stanford Samuels and linebacker Dontavious Jackson.
VS. OLD DOMINION
When: Sept. 21
The skinny: Virginia wraps up a three-game home stand with its first game in program history against in-state foe Old Dominion. The Monarchs made national news with last fall’s upset of Virginia Tech and then watched defensive end Oshane Ximines become the first player in ODU history selected in the NFL Draft, but they finished the season 4-8.
The Monarchs brought in junior college quarterbacks Messiah deWeaver and Stone Smartt to replace Blake LaRussa, who decided to forego his senior year to attend seminary school. They also have to replace last season’s top four receivers and all four starters on the defensive line. Former Virginia Tech receiver Eric Kumah should play a major role in the passing game.
AT NOTRE DAME
When: Sept. 28
The skinny: Virginia heads to South Bend, Indiana, for what — at least to fans outside of Charlottesville — may be the premier matchup of the season. Last season, Notre Dame went 12-1 and was in the College Football Playoff. This fall, Notre Dame is ranked No. 9 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. The Fighting Irish are the only team on Virginia’s schedule to make the preseason top 25.
Ian Book returns at quarterback for the Irish after completing 68 percent of his passes last season. Notre Dame has to replace last fall’s top receiver and running back, but it returns four of last fall’s starting offensive linemen and six of its top 10 tacklers, led by safety Alohi Gillman.
When: Oct. 11
The skinny: After a bye week, Virginia will charter a plane for the second game in a row as it heads to South Florida. Last season’s home win over the Hurricanes was memorable, but the Cavaliers haven’t won at Miami since 2011.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Jarren Williams beat out N’Kosi Perry and Ohio State transfer Tate Martell for the starting job. He’ll have explosive athletes around him, such as receivers Jeff Thomas and K.J. Osbourn and running back DeeJay Dallas. Miami also returns one of the ACC’s top linebacking corps, led by Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, and one of its top cornerbacks in Trajan Bandy.
When: Oct. 19
The skinny: Virginia won’t have quarterback Daniel Jones to pick on when the Blue Devils come to town. Jones, who is now on the Giants' roster as Eli Manning's heir apparent, threw nine interceptions in three career games against the Cavaliers. Virginia’s win last season in Durham, North Carolina, marked its fourth straight against the Blue Devils.
There won’t be much of a drop off with Quentin Harris taking over under center in Durham. He went 2-0 in starts last season and finished the year with seven passing touchdowns and five rushing scores. He’ll share the backfield with veteran running backs Deon Jackson and Brittain Brown and work behind an offensive line returning three starters, but the passing game has to be rebuilt. Last season’s top two receivers, Jonathan Lloyd and TJ Rahming, are gone and top returning receiver, Jake Bobo, was likely lost for the season last week after fracturing his right clavicle.
When: Oct. 26
The skinny: New Louisville head coach Scott Satterfield will be well into his rebuild of the program by the time Virginia shows up in Kentucky. Last season, Louisville ranked last in the ACC in scoring offense (19.8 ppg) and defense (44.1 ppg), total offense (352.6 ypg) and defense (483.5 ypg) and rushing defense (277.3 ypg) while going 2-10 overall and 0-8 in conference play.
Just like last season, Juwan Pass and Malik Cunningham are going head-to-head at quarterback. Early signs point to Pass once again starting the season, and he’ll have some options in the passing game. Louisville returns last season’s top three receivers in Dez Fitzpatrick, Seth Dawkins and Chatarius Atwell.
AT NORTH CAROLINA
When: Nov. 2
The skinny: Virginia heads to Chapel Hill to face UNC and Mack Brown, who is the most well known of the ACC’s four new head coaches. He led Texas to a national championship, and he brought his recruiting prowess to UNC. One of the first things he did was convince four-star quarterback Sam Howell to de-commit from Florida State and join the Tar Heels, whose 2019 recruiting class ranks No. 32 in the nation, according to 247Sports.
North Carolina returns last season’s top three rushers, led by Michael Carter and Antonio Williams, and wide receiver/kick returner Dazz Newsome is one of the ACC’s most explosive athletes. The Tar Heels’ problem last fall was they couldn’t stop anybody. UNC ranked in the bottom three in the ACC in scoring defense (34.5 ppg), total defense (447.6 ypg) and rushing defense (218.8 ypg).
VS. GEORGIA TECH
When: Nov. 9
The skinny: Virginia welcomes a Georgia Tech team to town that nobody is going to recognize. New head coach Geoff Collins and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude have scrapped the Yellow Jackets’ traditional triple-option offense for the pro-style passing attack they employed at Temple. Georgia Tech went 7-6 in Paul Johnson’s final season as head coach.
Adjusting to an offensive scheme on the opposite end of the spectrum from what most of Tech’s recruits were brought in to run is going to come with growing pains. Redshirt junior Lucas Johnson is the favorite to win the job at quarterback. His top returning receiver, Jalen Camp, caught just 11 passes a year ago, but, of course, the Yellow Jackets will be fine at running back with last year’s quarterback Tobias Oliver and leading rushers Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard sharing the backfield.
When: Nov. 23
The skinny: For the fourth week in a row, Virginia will face a team breaking in a new coaching staff when Liberty comes to Scott Stadium. Last fall, the Cavaliers rode wide receiver Joe Reed’s three-touchdown performance to a 45-24 win over the Flames. But former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze has taken over in Lynchburg, and he has some pieces to work with.
Quarterback Stephen Calvert is back after throwing for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns. Liberty also returns last season’s leading receiver, Antonio Gandy-Golden, who may find himself on an NFL roster a year from now, and leading rusher Frankie Hickson. He’ll have some company in the backfield as former CAA-leading rusher Josh Mack is eligible after sitting out last year. The Flames also went heavy on the junior college transfers in an effort to shore up the defense.
VS. VIRGINIA TECH
When: Nov. 29
The skinny: The last time the Commonwealth Cup was played in Scott Stadium, Virginia Tech escaped with a 10-0 victory. Last season in Blacksburg, an overtime fumble sealed Virginia’s fate in a 34-31 loss. In an average year, this is the biggest game on the Cavaliers’ schedule. This fall, though, the stakes could be at an all-time high. Given how both team’s schedules are shaping up and that there is no clear favorite in the division, this one could decide the Coastal Division champion.
The Hokies’ roster was ravaged this offseason by the transfer portal, but quarterback Ryan Willis returns after replacing Josh Jackson last season and he has some young weapons around him. Last season’s leading receiver, Damon Hazelton, is back and both Tre Turner and Hezekiah Grimsley are deep threats.