If past is prelude, the University of Virginia should brace for a miserable football season. And we all know what that would mean.
Summon the hangman for the head man.
Not to give Al Groh the bum's rush a mere one game into his ninth season as coach. He and his Cavaliers proved remarkably resilient in 2007 and '08 after troubling defeats at Wyoming and Duke.
Still, Saturday's 26-14 loss to William and Mary bodes ill for Virginia and Groh on several fronts.
First, karma. With losing seasons in 2006 and '08 clearly and properly clouding Groh's future, the Cavaliers needed an upbeat start.
Saturday was anything but. The Cavaliers lost to a Football Championship Subdivision team for the first time in 23 years, at home no less, and looked awful in the process with seven turnovers.
Founded in 1978 as Division I-AA, FCS programs award 22 fewer scholarships than the I-A big dogs and operate on comparatively shoestring budgets. The talent disparity between the divisions? Try Montreal Alouettes versus the New England Patriots.
Think that's a stretch? Consider these numbers.
Last season, teams from the six Bowl Championship Series conferences were 51-0 against I-AAs. From 2000-08, BCS teams were 270-13 against I-AAs.
A quick ACC aside: Saturday marked the first time the conference has lost two games to I-AAs on the same day — Duke bowing to Richmond was the other.
The only other complete season in which the ACC dropped two I-AA games was 1983: Georgia Tech to Furman, and Wake Forest, then coached by Groh, to Appalachian State.
As you might expect, I-As that lose to I-AAs tend to struggle throughout the season. Case in point the ACC.
From 1978-2008, the conference lost 14 games to I-AAs. None of those 14 ACC teams finished better than 4-7.
When Virginia lost to James Madison in 1982, the Cavaliers went 2-9. When Virginia lost to William and Mary in '86, the final record was 3-8.
A similar result this season would translate to curtains for Groh, and defying that trend will be difficult.
The Cavaliers' next three opponents — Texas Christian, Southern Mississippi and North Carolina — played in bowls last season and have credible aspirations of upgrading in 2009. Road games at Miami and Clemson will be bears; ditto home tests against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.
Virginia hasn't started a season 0-4 since 1982, when George Welsh's first Cavaliers team went 2-9. An 0-4 face-plant this season would prompt two questions.
How many folks would bother attending the Oct. 10 home game against Indiana? Would athletic director Craig Littlepage contemplate an in-season coaching change?
Clemson, you'll recall, parted ways with Tommy Bowden last October with the Tigers 3-3 and reeling from consecutive losses to Maryland and Wake Forest. In 2006, North Carolina announced John Bunting's exit in October, though Bunting completed the season.
Still, the guess on Littlepage is no. He's just not that cut-throat.
Littlepage might stray from his nature if Groh loses the locker room. But despite all the challenges of the last few years, Virginia's players have appeared admirably loyal to Groh, and vice-versa by the way.
"One of the things we tell (players) before the season ever starts," Groh said Monday, "is a team collectively, and the players individually, have to be prepared to handle both the love and the hate, because both of them come during the course of the season. …
"Every week the team is going to get one or the other. Every week. If you're 12-0, the team has to be able to tune out the love, and if you're 0-12, a team has to be able to tune out the hate."
Suffice to say, there's little love surrounding the Cavaliers and their head coach this week. And as Groh conceded, much of the negativity is deserved.
But there are beacons of hope. Sort of.
Three weeks after falling to I-AA Furman in 1984, North Carolina State won at 12th-ranked Georgia Tech. Alas, the Wolfpack promptly lost its final six games.
After dropping its 2007 opener to Appalachian State, Michigan rebounded to share second place in the Big Ten and defeat Florida in the Capital One Bowl. The Wolverines finished 9-4 to become the only BCS team this decade to fashion a winning record despite a I-AA loss.
Coach Lloyd Carr's reward for that reversal? A retirement party.
Inside OnlineInside Norm Wood on a bright spot shown by U.Va.: the mobility of its quarterbacks. Page 3
Norm Wood on Virginia Tech's Dyrell Roberts of Smithfield, who says returning kicks comes naturally. Page 3
Virginia Tech falls from No. 7 to No. 14 in the AP poll. Page 3
Top 25 poll. Page 5
Online Get David Teel's take on ACC football — and other topics — in his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.