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Bowl Watch Week 14: Despite Tech loss, Virginia still has hope for the Belk Bowl

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The ACC is mediocre. And Virginia could benefit.

Virginia v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

After suffering a(nother) stunning loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies, the Virginia Cavaliers’ bowl fate appeared to be sealed Friday night. And the outcome looked grim—Shreveport or Detroit levels of grim. While Bronco Mendenhall and the players would have still said all the right things if they were looking at a lower tier bowl, it would nonetheless have been a bittersweet “reward” to end another season in which UVA couldn’t capitalize on its gaudy early record.

But as Friday turned to Saturday, Virginia’s fortunes may have begun to improve. Simply put...#goacc happened.

Consider: Pitt fell on the road to Miami, leaving both teams with 7 wins. Boston College lost at home to Syracuse, leaving the Eagles with 7 wins. Same for Georgia Tech, which fell to Georgia. And same for Duke, which inexplicably lost to Wake a Forest at home by 50.

Tally it all up and six ACC teams finished the season at the seven-win plateau, an unlikely Pitt upset of Clemson in the ACC title game notwithstanding. Talk about a mucky and mediocre middle.

The carnage around the conference left Virginia in decent shape to snag a Tier 1 ACC Bowl game. This is despite the Hoos losing their last two games in heartbreaking fashion and dropping three out of four. In this instance, it appears that lucky was better than good.

So where is Virginia headed?

Bowl Projections

Tier 1 ACC Bowls:

247 Sports has Virginia in the Belk Bowl against Mizzou (Charlotte, December 28). Their quote: “We know the Belk Bowl has targeted Virginia from the ACC as one of its primary most-wanted teams.” USA Today has the Hoos headed there against South Carolina, while The Sporting News takes Virginia to Charlotte against Auburn..

Joe Giglio, who writes for the newspaper in Raleigh, also has Virginia pegged for Charlotte.

This seems to be the best-case scenario for Virginia...which is weird to type. UVA fans appear pumped about the possibility of returning to Charlotte. If the Belk committee is pumped about the Hoos, it could be a match made in heaven.

Elsewhere, both SB Nation and Bleacher Report have Virginia in the Sun Bowl against Cal (El Paso, December 31). Both ESPN writers have the Hoos in the Sun Bowl, but against Arizona State.

CBS Sports has Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl against Minnesota (The Bronx, December 27).

Tier 2 ACC Bowls:

Sports Illustrated has Virginia in the Quick Lane Bowl against Minnesota (Detroit, December 26). College Football News also has Virginia in the Quick Lane Bowl, but against Western Michigan.

The Orlando Sentinel has Virginia against Temple in the Military Bowl (December 31, Annapolis).

Note...we don’t think Virginia will end up back in Annapolis. STL’s Caroline Darney volunteered with the Military Bowl last year and knows that the committee for that game traditionally tries to avoid repeating the teams they select in consecutive years.

Looking Back:

At the beginning of the season, I split Virginia’s schedule into five buckets:

  • Must Wins - Richmond, Liberty
  • Favorables - Indiana, Ohio
  • Toss Ups - UNC, Pittsburgh
  • TBDs - Louisville, Duke, Georgia Tech
  • Long shots - N.C. State, Miami, Virginia Tech

I suggested the Hoos needed to win the six games in the first three buckets to go bowling. I’m happy to report that I was wrong. Virginia went 4-2 against those groups, then added wins against Duke, Louisville, and an upset of Miami to get to seven wins. And, sadly, UVA left multiple other possible wins on the table.

What’s Next:

I don’t foresee this weekend’s games having much of an impact on UVA’s bowl destination. Bowl matchups should trickle out throughout the day on Sunday, leading up to an official announcement in the early evening.

For those of you that want to follow the action and rumor mill, I’d recommend following Brett McMurphy and Joe Giglio on Twitter. They have a good handle on the national and ACC Bowl pictures, respectively.

Lastly, just for giggles, here’s how I think the ACC bowls will shake out. I don’t have any sources, so this is really just a guess. But I suppose that’s the fun part.

  • College Football Playoffs - Clemson and Notre Dame
  • Camping World Bowl - NC State
  • Pinstripe Bowl - Syracuse
  • Belk - Virginia
  • Music City - Georgia Tech
  • Sun - Pitt
  • Military - Virginia Tech
  • Independence - Miami
  • Quick Lane - Boston College
  • Gasparilla/First Responder - Duke
  • Birmingham - Wake Forest

Feel free to add your own speculation in the comments section below.

This will be the last 2018 bowl watch unless something wild happens. It’s been a blast to be the tour guide.

Stay tuned to Streaking the Lawn as Virginia’s postseason picture comes into focus. And go Hoos.