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Week 3 Bowl Tracker: Importance of UConn game cannot be overstated

The fate of this weekly column could depend on it.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Oregon Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

With temperatures touching the 90s in Virginia this week, it might be hard to imagine that the biggest week of UVA’s football season has arrived. But make no mistake, Virginia’s slim bowl hopes are on the line when it travels to Connecticut looking for its first win of the year. Since Week 1, I’ve said that the UConn game could determine UVA’s chances of making a bowl game in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season. The loss to Richmond only magnifies the importance of Saturday’s contest.

Sitting at 0-2, Virginia will have to go 6-4 the rest of the season to make its first bowl game since 2011. Here’s how Sagarin currently ranks UVA’s opponents:

#11 – Louisville
#28 – North Carolina
#29 – Miami
#33 - Oregon
#38 – Pitt
#42 – Georgia Tech
#50 – Virginia Tech
#63 – Duke
#73 – Central Michigan
#74 – Wake Forest
#79 - Richmond
#87 – Virginia
#100 - Connecticut

According to Sagarin, UConn is the easiest opponent left on UVA’s schedule, which alone is reason why Saturday’s contest is a must-win. If Virginia loses to UConn, you won’t see this feature next week and probably won’t see it again unless something surprising happens. (Eds. note: this has not been discussed.)

Fortunately, our beloved Hoos showed signs of life on Saturday in their loss at Oregon. They can still have a special season if they can keep the running game moving, shore up the secondary, and keep playing with the enthusiasm they showed Saturday night. UVA won’t face an opponent at Oregon’s level for another month, so there’s plenty of time to build momentum and confidence.

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, remember what happened last season. Virginia played inspired ball against Notre Dame and almost pulled off a monumental upset. At the time, I wrote that the Cavaliers would go bowling if that version of the team showed up more often. Instead, they came out flat the next two weeks. UVA nearly lost to William and Mary and then got embarrassed by Boise State on national television.

Here’s where we fans are hoping that Virginia’s coaching change pays off. Under the previous staff, the Cavaliers were rarely able to sustain and build momentum week-to-week. Can they do it under Mendenhall? And can Mendenhall and his staff put them in the right positions to succeed? Hopes for a bowl game rest on the answer to these questions.