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Bowl Watch: Virginia on the brink after win at UNC

The path to the postseason is clear: win one more.

Virginia v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

“One more time we're gonna celebrate. Oh yeah all right don't stop the dancing.”

It’s been six years since the Virginia Cavaliers played in a bowl game. But after beating North Carolina on Saturday, they’re only one win away from bowl eligibility. UVA will get its first crack at a 6th win this Saturday against Boston College. An achievement that has seemed so far away for so long now sits so achingly close.

The thing that jumps out about Virginia’s success this season is how easy it’s looked. The 2017 Cavaliers have gotten here mostly by just winning the games they should. They’ve gone 3-1 in games we labeled “should-wins” or “toss-ups” in the preseason.

To be sure, they’ve gotten a little lucky at times. By the time they arrived in Chapel Hill, nearly 25% of the UNC roster had been lost for the season. At other times, they’ve has looked damn near unbeatable, like when they rolled Boise State on the blue field.

But mostly, the Cavaliers have just taken care of business. That’s the first solid step in the rebuilding of the program. And it’s a welcome change compared to what we’ve seen from Cavalier teams over the past decade.

Bowl Projections:

Virginia is firmly entrenched in media bowl projections at this point, and some media outlets have the Hoos playing in upper-tier ACC bowl games. Here’s where they have the Hoos going in the postseason:

Tier 1 ACC Bowl Games:

  • Sporting News and Sports Illustrated project Virginia to face South Carolina in the December 29 Belk Bowl in Charlotte. Fans will remember Virginia’s triumphs in the first two Continental Tire Bowls. I have no doubt that the Hoos would draw quite well again in Charlotte.
  • David Hale of ESPN projects Virginia to face Utah on the December 29 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas. This game would match Mendenhall against his old nemesis, Kyle Wittingham. The two last faced each other in an epic 2015 Las Vegas Bowl after Mendenhall had taken the UVA job. Wittingham is a BYU alum.
  • Kyle Bonagura of ESPN projects Virginia to face Indiana in the December 27 Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. This would be a rematch of Indiana’s Week 2 victory in Charlottesville.

Tier 2 ACC Bowl Games:

  • SB Nation and College Football News project Virginia to face Navy in the December 28 Military Bowl in Annapolis, Maryland. SB Nation has held this projection four straight weeks.

Non-ACC Bowl Games: Virginia could play in one of these if other conferences can’t fill all of their bowl slots.

  • CBS Sports has the Cavaliers facing Marshall in something called the “Boca Raton Bowl” on December 19.

Rankings And Results:

So where might the Cavaliers find their 6th win? Here’s how they stack up against their opponents in the most recent S&P+ ratings.

  • at Miami (5-0) - 11
  • Virginia Tech (5-1) - 19
  • at Louisville (4-3) - 24
  • Georgia Tech (3-2) - 27
  • Virginia (5-1) - 34
  • at Boise State (4-2) - 41 - Win
  • Indiana (3-3) - 44 - Loss
  • Duke (4-3) - 75 - Win
  • at North Carolina (1-6) - 88 - Win
  • at Pittsburgh (2-5) - 96
  • Boston College (3-4) - 104
  • Connecticut (2-4) - 119 - Win
  • William and Mary (2-4) - 173 - Win (Sagarin ranking used for W&M)

What’s Next:

In the preseason, we categorized the BC game as a “should-win.” Virginia is favored by a touchdown at home, but the Eagles shouldn’t be taken lightly. They shocked Louisville on the road last Saturday, with freshman running back AJ Dillon rushing for 272 yards (!!!) and earning Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week honors.

As we mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers are on the brink of bowl eligibility because they’ve won the games they should. If they do that one more time, there will be serious reason to celebrate in Charlottesville.