Let’s get this out of the way from the start: Virginia certainly didn’t look like a bowl team on Saturday. In fact, the Wahoos looked bad enough that it seems ridiculous to write a bowl tracker column this week. But I refuse to give up on this column after one game, even though I do feel a little like Jim Mora.
The question now becomes: how on Earth does Virginia make it to a bowl game after losing to Richmond?
For an analogy, let’s turn to the presidential campaign. It’s election season, after all. In order to win the presidency, a candidate must cobble together 270 electoral votes. The media mostly covers the “swing states,” but we should remember that lots of votes come from “safe” states. For example, in general we can assume that the Democrat is going to win California and New York. And we can similarly assume that the Republican is going to win Texas and Oklahoma.
You won’t find many pundits who think a Democrat can win the presidency without winning California or a Republican can win the presidency without winning Texas. Likewise, you won’t find many people who think that Virginia can make a bowl game this season without beating Richmond. As I mentioned last week, Richmond was supposed to be one of the easiest games on the schedule.
A bowl game for Virginia remains a possibility…even if less probable. The first reason is because math. Just like a Democrat who loses New York and must make up electoral votes elsewhere, Virginia must make up a win somewhere else. And the Hoos will have to somehow “flip” a game that doesn’t look as easy as Richmond did.
But bigger picture, just like a Republican who loses Oklahoma is likely to have some significant problems as a candidate, a Virginia team that loses to an FCS team also has some significant problems. It becomes easier to ask: “Well, if they can’t beat Richmond – who exactly can they beat?” That’s a valid question at this point.
Week 2 isn’t likely to bring much relief. Oregon might be the toughest team on Virginia’s schedule, and traveling across country for a game is never easy. The best case scenario is that Virginia plays better and leaves comes back from Oregon healthy.
At the moment, it looks like Connecticut, Central Michigan, and Wake Forest are the most-winnable games left on Virginia’s schedule. UConn barely beat FCS-opponent Maine in the opening week. And before you go reminding me that Virginia lost to an FCS team (I watched it, too), Maine and Richmond aren’t comparable opponents. Richmond should beat Maine even worse than it beat UVA. Meanwhile, Wake Forest barely held off Tulane at home, and Central Michigan is, well, Central Michigan.
Our 2-2-2 model broke down when Virginia lost one of its only two home games. Now, it’s a 1-2-3 model that requires either an extra road win or conference home win. Given what’s remaining, where do you see an opening?