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Bowl Watch Week 10: The Hoos Are Going Bowling…But Where?

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The guessing is the hardest part. It’s also the most fun.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A couple folks recently asked me what this column would look like once the Virginia Cavaliers clinched bowl eligibility. In case you haven’t heard, the Hoos did just that on Saturday, beating North Carolina 31-21 to move to 6-2 on the season. They’ll go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since Thomas Jefferson was president, which is huge news for the program and its fans.

Now that the postseason is secured, we’ll focus more on the potential bowl games Virginia could play in this year. There are a number of options, and I think (I hope) it’ll be fun dreaming about them between now and early December. Let’s get to it.

Bowl projections

Before we start…let me take you back to the old days. Remember the old days? Those days back in September and early October when we mused about bowl games in Detroit, Shreveport, and Tampa? When we shivered while thinking about a return trip to Annapolis?

Well, dear reader…those days are gone. This week’s bowl projections all have Virginia going to an ACC Tier 1 bowl game or better.

You might be wondering…what’s better than an ACC Tier 1 bowl game? The answer is that there are three things better than an ACC Tier 1 bowl game: the College Football Playoff, the New Year’s Six Bowls, and the Camping World Bowl. All of those sit above the ACC Tier 1 games in the bowl pecking order, as seen here:

Now before we get ahead of ourselves, I’ll kill the suspense: Virginia ain’t making the College Football Playoff. At least not in 2018.

There’s a slight chance the Hoos could squeak into the New Year’s Six, according to this logic from 247Sports:

“If the Cavaliers can get to 10 wins and take the Coastal, Virginia would be awfully attractive in a New Year’s Six Peach Bowl scenario with a large chunk of alumni in the Atlanta area.”

If that dead sexy quote doesn’t get you excited, then you’re reading the wrong column.

A number of outlets have the Hoos in the Camping World Bowl (Orlando, December 28). This is the ACC’s top bowl destination after the CFP and the New Year’s Six, and Virginia would play the third or fourth best team from the Big XII if selected.

Sports Illustrated has the Virginia playing Iowa State. So do both ESPN writers. The good folks at College Football News and The Orlando Sentinel have Virginia facing West Virginia, which would be an enticing rematch of the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl. That’s the game that Wali Lundy went wild and the West Virginia faithful went home early. That’s also the game the Pep Band got in trouble for mocking our brethren over the border.

Among the Tier 1 ACC bowl games, Virginia continues to see projections for the Belk Bowl against an SEC team and the Sun Bowl against a Pac-12 team. Among the two, the Belk Bowl would provide a much easier fan travel option, while the Sun Bowl could provide a bigger name opponent.

SB Nation projects Virginia to the Belk Bowl (Charlotte, December 29) to face Auburn. The Sporting News and USA Today pit the Hoos in Charlotte against South Carolina. CBS Sports has the Hoos in the Sun Bowl (El Paso, December 31) against Southern Cal. So does 247 Sports. Brett McMurphy pits the Hoos in the Sun Bowl against Oregon.

Poll

What bowl possibility gets you most excited?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Belk Bowl in Charlotte vs. SEC team
    (107 votes)
  • 3%
    Sun Bowl in El Paso vs. Pac-12 team
    (19 votes)
  • 20%
    Camping World Bowl in Orlando vs. Big XII team
    (99 votes)
  • 54%
    New Year’s Six, Baby!
    (266 votes)
491 votes total Vote Now

Opponent Update

This past weekend brought two important results from future UVA opponents. Pittsburgh beat Duke in a track meet, 54-45. The Panthers come to Scott Stadium on Friday night. They’re better than early-season blowout losses to Penn State and UCF suggested, but they’re 0-3 on the road so far.

Meanwhile…in Blacksburg…

Georgia Tech blasted Virginia Tech 49-28. The Jackets shredded the Hokie defense, running for damn near 500 yards with their backup quarterback.

Schedule assessment

Our schedule ratings remain the same this week. But man, what to do with the road games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech? The game in Atlanta is starting to look more difficult than the game in Blacksburg. But would we tempt fate by moving the VT game to “Toss Up?” Maybe next week.

Here’s how Virginia’s schedule currently stacks up:

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

As of this week, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gives Virginia a 99% chance of winning at least seven games, an 89% chance of winning at least eight games, and a 54% chance of winning nine games or more.

The path forward

Virginia has four games remaining in the regular season. Those games will decide if the Hoos can win the ACC Coastal division, but they’ll also decide how high they end up in the bowl pecking order. Allow me to explain:

The ACC has a 1-win rule for Tier 1 bowl games. That rule means that a team can’t be passed over for a Tier 1 bowl for a team that isn’t within 1 win in the standings. That means the Belk Bowl, for example, couldn’t take a 6-win ACC team over an 8-win ACC team. It could, however, take a 6-win ACC team over a 7-win ACC team.

We can get more into that in the coming weeks, but the overall “math” is pretty simple: the more Virginia wins, the more attractive it will look to potential bowl games.

As always, we’ll know more next week. Until then!