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Bowl Watch Week 7: Back From Bye Week

Changes are afoot!

Virginia v Notre Dame Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

I’ve changed the format of Bowl Watch this week and plan to use this new format going forward.

From now on, I plan to break this column up into five sections:

  • Current bowl projections
  • What’s happening with Virginia (including a look at the rankings and schedule)
  • What’s happening “Upstream”
  • What’s happening “Downstream”
  • Games to monitor this week

The reason for the change is that tracking UVA’s bowl prospects isn’t as straightforward as, say, tracking its chances to win the ACC Coastal division. For the latter, the Hoos control their own destiny and can with the Coastal by winning their next five ACC games.

But when it comes to its bowl destination, Virginia only partly controls what happens. It’s also somewhat beholden to what other teams do: teams higher up on the ACC bowl pecking order like Clemson and Notre Dame, and teams further down like Miami, Pitt, Virginia Tech, etc. So it’s necessary to talk about these other teams a bit to give as full of a picture as possible.

Make sense? Good. Let’s get to it.

Current Bowl Projections

Here’s how the media currently forecasts Virginia’s bowl destination and opponent:

Bowl Watch Week 7

Source Bowl Game Date and Time Opponent
Source Bowl Game Date and Time Opponent
Sporting News Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM LSU
College Football News Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM LSU
ESPN - Bonagura Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM LSU
USA Today Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM LSU
SB Nation/Banner Society Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Georgia
247 Sports Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Georgia
CBS Sports Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Notre Dame
ESPN - Schlabach Camping World Bowl December 28, 12PM Iowa State
Sports Illustrated Camping World Bowl December 28, 12PM Iowa State
Athlon Sports Camping World Bowl December 28, 12PM Iowa State
Brett McMurphy Music City Bowl December 30, 4PM Mississippi St.

What’s Happening With Virginia:

Sagarin Rankings

Virginia rose in the Sagarin rankings this week despite not playing. The Hoos now rank higher than all of their remaining opponents.

Future Opponents:

31 – Virginia

44 – Duke

49 – @ North Carolina

55 – @ Miami

71 – Virginia Tech

73 – at Louisville

99 – Georgia Tech

110 – Liberty

Virginia also remains ahead of 4 of its previous opponents. Florida State was the most notable mover this week on the heels of its convincing win over NC State.

Previous Opponents:

12 – @ Notre Dame LOSS

31 – Virginia

40 – Florida State WIN

52 – @ Pittsburgh WIN

162 – Old Dominion WIN

178 – William & Mary WIN

Virginia fans should definitely like what the Sagarin ratings suggest at this point. The Hoos have played three of its five best opponents already and won twice. If these ratings are at all accurate in their predictions, then UVA should have a benign schedule the rest of the way.

Grouping the Games - Updates and Changes

Results from Weeks 5 and 6 have sparked changes in how I group the upcoming games. I’ve swapped Duke and Virginia Tech: moving the Blue Devils to the “toss-up” category and moving the Hokies to the “Favorable” category. A lot could change between now and Black Friday, but at the moment I think Virginia will be comfortably favored against Tech. I think the line on the Duke game will be closer.

In addition, I’ve moved the Georgia Tech game from “favorable,” to “must-win.” I haven’t seen anything from the Jackets to convince me they’re improving.

A reader recently suggested that I move North Carolina from “toss-up” to “favorable.” The Heels likely put that idea to rest by taking Clemson to the wire in Week 5. UNC played five close games to start the season before thrashing Georgia Tech this past Saturday. I don’t have any reason to believe they won’t play Virginia close on November 2nd.

Here’s how the schedule looks currently:

Remaining Must-Win:

  • Liberty (4-2) Home, November 23
  • Georgia Tech (1-4) Home, November 9

Remaining Favorable:

  • Louisville (3-2) Away, October 26
  • Virginia Tech (3-2) Home, November 29

Remaining Toss-Up:

  • Miami (2-3) Away, October 11
  • Duke (3-2) Home, October 19
  • North Carolina (3-3) Away, November 2

At 4-1, Virginia remains two wins from bowl eligibility. The Hoos only need to win their last remaining “must-wins” against Liberty and Georgia Tech to go bowling for a third straight year. But they might have to run the table to make a New Year’s Six bowl game. Here’s more on that:

What’s Happening Upstream?

You may have noticed that Virginia is no longer a unanimous Orange Bowl pick among the media bowl projections. As a reminder, the Orange Bowl picks first, the Camping World Bowl picks next, and then a tier of four bowl games (Belk, Music City, Sun, and Pinstripe) pick after that.

In three instances, Virginia is in the Camping World Bowl with Wake Forest (who’s 5-0) in the ACC’s Orange Bowl slot. In another, Virginia is listed in the Music City Bowl with Wake in the Orange and Notre Dame in the Camping World. The Irish, you may recall, can take a slot in an ACC bowl game if they fall out of the New Year’s Six.

While these are just projections, they highlight two of the three main “upstream” factors that could affect Virginia’s bowl destination:

  • Notre Dame’s playoff and New Year’s Six prospects
  • Wake Forest’s ranking and record
  • Clemson’s playoff push

Assuming Virginia makes the ACC Title Game but loses to Clemson, the best-case scenario would bowl “seeding” would be for the Tigers to make the playoff, the Irish to make the New Year’s Six, and the Demon Deacons to stumble a couple of times along the way. Those factors will all be worth watching as the season continues.

What’s Happening Downstream?

The Hoos won’t have to worry much about other ACC teams snatching their preferred bowl game as long as they keep winning. But things will get dicier with every loss.

Pitt, Florida State, and North Carolina have seen their profiles improve these last two weeks. The Panthers are 4-2 and boast wins over UCF and Duke. FSU has beaten NC State and Louisville since losing to UVA and will get two more chances to impress: this weekend against Clemson and in the season finale against Florida. North Carolina damn near pulled the upset of the season against the Tigers before beating Georgia Tech.

While none of these teams boast Virginia’s resume at the moment, they’re all positioned to benefit should the Hoos falter down the stretch.

Games To Monitor This Week

Virginia at Miami -

One of the sexiest games on Virginia’s schedule, Friday night’s matchup gives Bronco Mendenhall’s team another chance on the prime time stage. UVA would establish itself as the clear ACC Coastal front-runner with a win. A loss would muddy the outlook for the rest of the season.

It’s still hard to know what to make of Miami. The Canes have been consistently unimpressive so far despite having better athletes in most of their games this year. Their two wins are over an FCS team and a MAC team, the latter by only five points. But opposing fans will likely remain wary out of deference to program tradition.

Georgia Tech at Duke -

The Blue Devils have faced quite a roller coaster in recent weeks. After throttling Virginia Tech 45-10, Duke fell behind Pitt by 26 points in Week 6. The Devils rallied only to let the Panthers win in the closing minutes. The loss knocked Duke back into the Coastal pack. David Cutcliffe’s team heads to Charlottesville in Week 8.

Louisville at Wake Forest -

Virginia’s Week 9 opponent, Louisville, has been the ACC’s most intriguing team so far. Picked dead last in the ACC Atlantic, Scott Satterfield’s squad beat Boston College at home last week after almost winning on the road in Tallahassee. Virginia’s trip to Derby town looks tougher than it once did.

Meanwhile, Wake Forest is ranked 17th in the Coaches Poll and could be 9-0 when it faces Clemson. The Demon Deacons are UVA’s top competition for an Orange Bowl slot right now.

That’s it for now. As always, stay HYPED, fans. I’ll see you back here next week.

Until then, Go Hoos.