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Bowl Watch Week 12: Virginia’s bowl destination is anyone’s guess

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Seriously. The Hoos could end up (almost) anywhere.

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

The Virginia football team took care of business Saturday, beating Liberty for its seventh win of the year. In doing so, the Hoos clinched their first winning season since 2011 and prompted head coach Bronco Mendenhall to reflect on how much the program has changed since 2016, when Virginia went 2-10.

”There’s a lot that’s happened in a pretty short amount of time,” Mendenhall said in his post-game press conference.

Unfortunately, the win over Liberty did little to clear up Virginia’s bowl outlook. UVA didn’t fall down the ACC bowl pecking order, but it didn’t really rise much either. The truth of the matter is that the conference bowl picture remains ridiculously cloudy at this point. If you asked me where I think Virginia is going bowling, I’d give you one of these:

Below is a deeper look at where Virginia sits with two weeks left in the regular season.

Bowl Projections

This was the wildest week yet for media predictions for UVA’s postseason landing spot. Out of the ACC’s seven Tier 1 or Tier 2 bowl games, Virginia had at least one projection for SIX of them.

Here’s where the Hoos landed:

Tier 1 Bowls

SB Nation now projects Virginia to the Sun Bowl (El Paso, December 31) to face Oregon. ESPN’s Mitch Sherman has them there against Arizona State. Anyone remember who used to play quarterback at Arizona State? This guy...

NCAA Football: Liberty at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura has Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl against Wisconsin (The Bronx, December 27). College Football News has the Hoos in that game against Purdue.

The Sporting News and USA Today have Virginia in the Belk Bowl (Charlotte, December 29) against Auburn and South Carolina, respectively.

Brett McMurphy, is the lone pundit that has Virginia in the Music City Bowl (Nashville, December 28). He has the Hoos playing South Carolina in Nashville.

Tier 2 Bowls

Sports Illustrated has Virginia facing Cincinnati in the Military Bowl (Annapolis, December 31). The Orlando Sentinel has UVA back in Annapolis against Temple. So does 247 Sports, which is really excited about the idea.

“You want one of bowl season’s most underrated matchups? Virginia-Temple would have excitement written all over it, especially if the red-hot Owls team offensively shows up in the postseason.”

CBS Sports stuck with its projection of Virginia in the Independence Bowl against UAB (Shreveport, December 27). Bleacher Report has the Hoos in Shreveport against Oregon.

And here’s this week’s poll:

Poll

What best describes your feeling on the Military Bowl?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    I went last year. I’d go again this year.
    (62 votes)
  • 25%
    I went last year. I wouldn’t go again this year.
    (135 votes)
  • 13%
    I didn’t go last year. I’d go this year.
    (70 votes)
  • 49%
    I didn’t go last year. I wouldn’t go this year, either.
    (260 votes)
527 votes total Vote Now

Schedule Assessment

There aren’t any changes to our schedule ratings this week. Virginia has already reached bowl eligibility and clinched a winning season. If the Hoos can get to eight wins, they’ll have a much better shot at landing into a Tier 1 bowl than if they finish 7-5. I still believe they’ll have a tougher task against Georgia Tech than Virginia Tech.

For context, UVA is ranked lower than Georgia Tech and higher than Virginia Tech in the Sagarin ratings and higher than both Techs in the S&P+ ratings. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gives Virginia a 77% chance of winning at least 8 games and a 27% chance of winning 9 games.

Update on ACC Bowl Teams

With three weeks to play, the ACC has nine teams that have qualified for a bowl game, and two more teams on the cusp. I’ve listed them below and have tried to project how they’ll finish based on Bill Connelly’s S&P+ Stat Profiles. This is just one possibility, but I think it demonstrates how muddy the ACC’s bowl picture remains. (Remember, Notre Dame gets a spot in the ACC bowl selection process.)

Current Standings

Qualified:

  • Clemson 10-0
  • Notre Dame 10-0
  • Syracuse 8-2
  • Boston College 7-3
  • Virginia 7-3
  • Duke 7-3
  • NC State 6-3
  • Pittsburgh 6-4
  • Georgia Tech 6-4

On the cusp:

  • Miami 5-5
  • Wake Forest 5-5

Projected Standings

Qualified:

  • Clemson 13-0, ACC Champion
  • Notre Dame 12-0
  • Boston College 9-3
  • NC State 9-3
  • Syracuse 8-4
  • Virginia 8-4
  • Duke 8-4
  • Miami 7-5
  • Pittsburgh 7-6, ACC Coastal Champions
  • Georgia Tech 7-5

Out:

  • Wake Forest 5-7

What’s It All Mean?

If the above scenario plays out, it would leave ten ACC bowl teams. Notre Dame would join Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

That’s the easy part. The more complicated part is what happens next.

Here’s a graphic reminder of how the ACC selection process works:

My hunch is that the Camping World Bowl would choose either 9-3 NC State or 9-3 Boston College. That choice will have a significant downstream effect:

If the Camping World Bowl selects the Wolfpack, then it’s easy to see the former Big East schools (Syracuse, Boston College, Pitt, and Miami) vying for the Pinstripe and Sun Bowls, while the classic ACC schools (Virginia, Duke and Georgia Tech), split the Belk and Music City Bowls. If the Camping World Bowl takes Boston College, then the situation is flipped.

Logically, I think the Pinstripe and Sun Bowls would want the former Big East schools because of their proximity (for the Pinstripe Bowl) and TV cachet (for the Sun Bowl). I think the Belk and Music City Bowls would want the classic ACC schools because of proximity and better travel reputations. But bowl season is rarely logical, and your guess is as good (or as bad) as mine.

This Week and the Path Forward

I continue to like Virginia’s chances to land a Tier 1 game if it can pick up an eighth win. It’ll get its first shot at that when it travels to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech. Beating the Jackets won’t be an easy task: UVA is currently a 6.5-point underdog and its depleted front-seven could struggle against Tech’s option attack.

A number of this week’s other ACC games could have bowl implications: Pitt plays Wake Forest, Syracuse plays Notre Dame, Miami plays Virginia Tech, Duke plays Clemson, and more. But it’s uncertain whether the results from these games will clear up the ACC bowl picture or muddy it even further.

Either way, we’ll be back next week. Until then…Go Hoos.