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Bowl Watch Week 6: Soft schedule helping Virginia

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The Hoos could go to a bowl game without picking up any big wins.

Louisville v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

At 3-2, the Virginia Cavaliers football team remains on pace to reach a bowl game despite its loss on Saturday against the N.C. State Wolfpack.

But let’s be frank. UVA’s wins haven’t exactly come against Murderer’s Row. Louisville, Ohio, and Richmond have a combined record of 6-8. And you’d be hard pressed to find a good win among them: Louisville beat Indiana State and Western Kentucky, Ohio beat Howard and UMass, and Richmond beat Fordham and St. Francis.

Despite what their fans might say, no one on that list wants Bama.

The good news for UVA is that there’s no strength of schedule requirement for making a bowl game. The Hoos could actually go to the postseason without a beating a SINGLE good team on their schedule. In fact, it might be the only way they get there.

Virginia’s 35-21 loss to NC State showed how much it needs to improve before it can reliably compete with the big boys. But If UVA can beat the guppies consistently, it will be a marked improvement from recent history. All the better if it can get to bowl games in the process.

Opponent Update

Here’s a look at how Virginia’s opponents fared in week 5:

Liberty won a shootout against New Mexico, and Georgia Tech steamrolled a terrible Bowling Green squad. No one cared about either result.

Pitt got stomped by Central Florida. I didn’t realize the Panthers had hired former UVA associate AD Jon Oliver to their staff. That’s the only possible reason they’d play an out-of-conference schedule of Penn State, Central Florida, and Notre Dame in the same season. Amirite?

Miami embarrassed North Carolina 47-10 in Coral Gables. The Canes scored three touchdowns on DEFENSE. Over the summer, UNC coach Larry Fedora said he was skeptical of concussion and CTE studies. I’m skeptical of his quarterback rotation, which makes me wonder if he bumped his own damn head.

Virginia Tech bounced back from the previous week’s embarrassment to crush Duke. The Blue Devils fell out of the top 25 as a result. The crazy stat? Duke is now the fourth ACC team to fall out of a top 25 poll this season.

The Tech win over Duke is the most significant of the week by far. The Hokies looked dispirited in a Week 4 loss to Old Dominion. Duke, meanwhile, looked like a legit Coastal division contender after starting 4-0. One week later, both teams seem to have retained their normal place in the ACC pecking order.

Schedule assessment

Once again, I’ve categorized UVA’s schedule into five tiers, which I’ve ranked from least difficult to most difficult. Here they are:

  • Must Win
  • Favorable
  • Toss-Up
  • Unfavorable
  • Long Shot

And here’s a current look at how UVA’s schedule stacks up:

I haven’t made any changes this week. If Duke had beaten Virginia Tech, I would have downgraded UVA’s chances in Durham to “Longshot.” If the Hokies keep winning, I’ll likely downgrade UVA’s chances in Blacksburg back to “Longshot” after upgrading them last week.

For context, UVA’s ranked higher than four of its remaining opponents in the Sagarin ratings and the S&P+ ratings (UNC, Pitt, Liberty, Georgia Tech).

Bowl projections

Virginia appeared in a number of bowl projections again this week, but only in the ACC’s Tier 2 bowl games.

College Football News stuck with its prediction of Virginia in the Military Bowl against Navy (Annapolis, December 31).

The Sporting News and Brett McMurphy see Virginia facing Indiana in the Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, December 26). Sports Illustrated has Virginia in the Quick Lane Bowl against Ohio. The Hoos, you may recall, have beaten the Bobcats and lost to the Hoosiers already this season.

SB Nation has Virginia facing South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, December 20).

The Orlando Sentinel also has Virginia against South Florida, but in the Independence Bowl (Shreveport, December 27). Both ESPN writers, and USA Today also have Virginia in the Independence Bowl, listing Army, FIU, and Akron listed as potential opponents.

The path forward

Virginia didn’t lose any ground by falling to the Wolfpack. There are lots of winnable games left on the schedule and UVA is in good shape at 3-2. The Hoos still just need to sweep their UNC-Pitt-Liberty stretch and they’ll be back in the postseason. Nothing that happened last weekend makes that task seem harder.

The bye week will hopefully give Virginia’s walking wounded some time to heal. Bryce Perkins’ dislocated pinky appeared to bother him at times against the Wolfpack. UVA lost safety Brenton Nelson to a concussion in the second quarter. Chris Moore, a versatile contributor in 2017, still hasn’t seen any action. Malcolm Cook hasn’t played in three weeks. Here’s hoping all are ready to go when Virginia takes the field against Miami on October 13.

Around the ACC, we’ll keep a close Week 6 eye on the Friday night’s game between Georgia Tech and Louisville. How do the Jackets and Cardinals compare? And can that tell us anything about Virginia’s chances when it travels to Atlanta in November?

As always, we’ll be back next week with more info. Looking forward to it!