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Bowl Watch Week 13: Tech Game Crucial For Bowl Reputation

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It’s Rivalry Week. And it’s well-past time to get that W.

NCAA Football: Virginia at Georgia Tech Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a ton at stake this week when the Virginia Cavaliers football team travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech: bragging rights, an 8-win season, catharsis for Virginia fans, validation for the Bronco Mendenhall rebuild, juice on the instate recruiting trail, a chance to kick Tech while it’s down, a possible meltdown of the Hokie fanbase, and more.

But beating the Hokies would also give Virginia its best chance to reach an attractive bowl game. The Hoos are right in the thick of the ACC’s bowl teams and only have one last opportunity to make an impression to bowl committees. Winning on Friday could send Virginia to a drive-able game against an SEC opponent. Losing could send the Hoos to a far flung destination against a Group of Five team.

The 2018 season has exceeded most everyone’s expectations, and it would be great for fans to celebrate the team’s success with an enjoyable bowl experience. The team deserves a great bowl turnout. The fans deserve a party.

If the Hoos can win Friday, bowl season could be an awful lot of fun.

Bowl Projections:

Just like last week, there’s little consensus among the pundits about Virginia’s postseason destination. Out of the ACC’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 bowl games, Virginia had at least one projection for six of them.

Here’s where the Hoos landed:

Tier 1 Bowls

247 Sports projects Virginia in the Belk Bowl against Tennessee (Charlotte, December 29). Of all the projections I’ve seen this week, this is unquestionably the sexiest. Both The Sporting News and Brett McMurphy have the Hoos in Charlotte against Mizzou. USA Today has the Hoos against South Carolina.

CBS Sports projects Virginia against Stanford in the Sun Bowl (El Paso, December 31). ESPN’s Mitch Sherman has the Hoos in El Paso against Arizona State.

ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura projects Virginia against Purdue in the Pinstripe Bowl (The Bronx, December 27).

Tier 2 Bowls

The Orlando Sentinel projects Virginia against Temple in the Military Bowl (Annapolis, December 31). Sports Illustrated has the Hoos in Annapolis against Cincinnati, while Bleacher Report pairs Virginia with Houston.

SB Nation now projects Virginia to go to the Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, December 20).

College Football News projects Virginia against Western Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, December 26).

Schedule Assessment:

There’s no change in our schedule outlook this week. I’ve left the Virginia Tech game as a toss up. Here’s how the schedule shakes out:

For context, Virginia is ranked ahead of Virginia Tech in both the Sagarin and S&P+ ratings. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gives Virginia a 56% chance of winning on Friday.

Update on ACC Bowl Teams:

With two weeks to play, the ACC has ten 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. As you can see, there’s a good chance of a logjam of seven-win and eight-win ACC teams. (Remember, Notre Dame gets a spot in the ACC bowl selection process).

Current Standings

  • Qualified:
  • Clemson 11-0
  • Notre Dame 11-0
  • Syracuse 8-3
  • NC State 7-3
  • Boston College 7-4
  • Pitt 7-4
  • Georgia Tech 7-4
  • Virginia 7-4
  • Duke 7-4
  • Miami 6-5

On the cusp:

  • Florida State 5-6
  • Wake Forest 5-6

Projected Standings

Qualified:

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

Out:

  • Florida State 5-7
  • 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. The story after that gets more complicated. Here’s a reminder of how the ACC selection process works:

The first ACC bowl dominoes may have fallen on Saturday when Florida State upset Boston College and Syracuse lost to Notre Dame. The Eagles and the Orange now may slide below NC State in the bowl pecking order. If I had to predict today, I’d say State is headed to the Camping World Bowl.

After that, the Tier 1 and Tier 2 bowls will haggle it out over the remaining ACC teams. Like I said last week, I still think the Belk and Music City Bowls will pick from the classic ACC teams (Virginia, Duke, and Georgia Tech) while the Pinstripe and Sun Bowls pick from the former Big East teams (Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse, and Miami).

From everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to, it seems like Virginia fans are most excited about a potential Belk Bowl appearance. And I think the Belk Bowl is the best-case scenario for UVA at this point. Charlotte is an easy trip for a lot of folks and an SEC opponent would give Virginia another chance at a statement win for the program.

NC State being off the board would certainly help Virginia’s chances. If the Hoos beat the Hokies on Friday, I like their odds of getting a Belk Bowl bid over Duke and Georgia Tech. If they lose, then all bets are off.

This Week And The Path Forward:

Too often in recent memory Virginia has reached its season finale already out of bowl contention. During those years, Cavalier players said that the Commonwealth Cup game against Virginia Tech was their bowl game. Then they went out and lost.

Things are slowly getting better in Charlottesville. The Hoos head to Blacksburg as favorites. But the fact that Virginia is bowl eligible doesn’t diminish Friday’s contest in the slightest. This game remains the biggest game on UVA’s schedule by far. And a win against Tech would be the biggest in a decade of UVA football.

Nothing more needs to be said.

Go get the Cup, boys. Go Hoos.