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Bowl Watch Week 11: UVA’s Forecast Is Cloudier After Pitt Loss

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The ACC bowl picture is a mess. And Virginia’s right in the middle of it.

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers’ Coastal Division title hopes wilted on Friday night, drowned by a vicious rainstorm and trampled by Pitt’s Darrin Hall. UVA can mathematically still win the division, but the scenarios are too complicated to discuss at this point.

Virginia still has a lot to play for despite the loss, and bowl positioning remains one of this season’s top prizes.The ACC’s bowl picture is murky: there are nine teams with at least five wins and there could be 10 postseason teams (or more) when all is said and done. UVA’s loss against Pittsburgh cost it an opportunity to stand out from the fray. Its job now is to win as many games as possible to force its way into a better bowl game.

At this point, Virginia’s new “Bowl Watch Magic Number” is eight. If the Hoos can get to eight wins, they’ll prevent themselves from getting passed over for any 6-6 ACC teams. That should be good enough to land in a Tier 1 bowl game against an opponent from the SEC, Big Ten, or PAC-12.

If Virginia fails to get to 8 wins, it’ll be completely at the whims of the bowl committees and could find itself headed to Shreveport or Detroit.

The stakes are still high, my friends.

Bowl projections

Remember last week? When Virginia’s bowl projections were nice and clean? I hope you didn’t get used to that because this week’s projections are all over the place.

As a reminder, here’s how the ACC’s bowl selection works:

And here’s where the Hoos landed in this week’s projections:

Tier 1 Bowls

SB Nation still projects Virginia to the Belk Bowl (Charlotte, December 29) to face Auburn. USA Today has ‘em there against South Carolina, Brett McMurphy has ‘em there against Mizzou, and The Sporting News has ‘em there against Florida. The Gators are ranked 19th in this week’s AP poll.

247 Sports has Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl against Purdue (The Bronx, December 27). So do College Football News and ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura. ESPN’s Mitch Sherman has UVA there against Wisconsin.

The folks at The Orlando Sentinel have Virginia in the Music City Bowl against LSU (Nashville, December 28). Now I’m all for UVA playing an SEC team. And I’m all for Nashville. But this particular matchup could be painful. The Tigers are ranked 10th in this week’s AP poll.

Tier 2 Bowls

Bleacher Report has Virginia against Houston in the Military Bowl (Annapolis, December 31).

CBS Sports has the Hoos in the Independence Bowl against UAB (Shreveport, December 27). Sports Illustrated has them there against Cal.

Poll

What’s most important to you in regards to a bowl game?

This poll is closed

  • 45%
    Location — I want to be able to attend!
    (142 votes)
  • 23%
    Opponent — I want to see us play someone interesting!
    (72 votes)
  • 30%
    Prestige — Only the big-name bowls for me, please!
    (95 votes)
309 votes total Vote Now

Schedule assessment

I made two changes to our schedule ratings this week: moving the Georgia Tech game from “toss up” to “unfavorable” and moving the Virginia Tech game from “unfavorable” to “toss up.” I know Bronco Mendenhall usually schemes well against option teams, but I think the injuries to Virginia’s front-seven will make it difficult to win in Atlanta. Virginia Tech is reeling and could be riding a four-game losing streak by the time UVA arrives. That game looks much more winnable at the moment.

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

As of this week, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gives Virginia a 96% chance of winning at least 7 games, an 81% chance of winning at least 8 games, and a 19% chance of winning 9 games.

Opponent Update

At last week’s tailgate, my friend Travis told me that his favorite section of Bowl Watch was reading my snarky comments about UVA’s opponents. Sorry, Travis. I don’t have much time for snark this week. Basketball starts tonight, and I need to get some searing hot Tweets ready for any media member who doesn’t gush about the hoops team.

Liberty (4-4) lost a triple overtime heartbreaker at UMass on Saturday. The Flames gave up 777 yards in the loss, including 540 in the air. Liberty still has a great chance to go to the postseason: it ends its regular season schedule with home games against New Mexico State and Norfolk State.

Georgia Tech (5-4, 3-3 ACC) kept it rolling with a win at North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets have won four of their last five and reached the brink of bowl eligibility. Tech will need to beat either Miami, Virginia, or Georgia to reach the postseason.

Virginia Tech (4-4, suffered its second straight home loss (and third loss in its last four games), falling to Boston College 31-21. The Hokies will most likely need to win two of their final three (at Pitt, Miami, Virginia) to go bowling. Tech lost a game due to Hurricane Florence and hasn’t yet scheduled a replacement.

This week and the path forward

After six straight ACC games, it’s easy to feel a bit of a letdown in advance of this week’s game against Liberty. The Flames will no doubt come to Scott Stadium inspired to pull off a shocking upset. The Hoos will need to match their intensity and take care of business. The line (UVA -23.5) suggests they should have no problem...umm...putting the fire out.

Virginia could notch its first winning season since 2011 with a win this weekend. That would be a significant accomplishment and would serve as another sign that the program is headed in the right direction. For bowl purposes, this is a game UVA must win if it wants any semblance of control over where it heads for the postseason.

As always, we’ll be back next week with more info. Until then, Go Hoos!