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Bowl Watch Week 12: Orange Bowl still in play for UVA

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Where will the Hoos end up? Only three more weeks in the season before the picture clears up.

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia notched another win this weekend against Georgia Tech, though the score was closer than many would have liked. The Wahoos earned a much-needed week off before ending the season at home against Liberty and Virginia Tech. Their top priority will be getting healthier in the secondary, where they’ve suffered a number of season-ending injuries.

Around the ACC, Wake Forest’s loss to Virginia Tech shook the stranglehold it had on the league’s Orange Bowl projections. It now looks like Wake, Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Pitt all have a chance to make it to Miami Gardens. For the Hoos to get there, they’ll need to win their last two, keep it respectable (at least) in the ACC title game against Clemson, and hope the committee ranks them higher than Wake Forest on December 8.

We’re less than four weeks from Bowl Selection Sunday, and there’s a lot to cover. So let’s get to it!

Current Bowl Projections

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

Bowl Projections

Source Bowl Game Date and Time Opponent
Source Bowl Game Date and Time Opponent
Sporting News Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Alabama
Athlon Sports Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Florida
SB Nation/Banner Society Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Georgia
Sports Illustrated Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Georgia
USA Today Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Georgia
ESPN - Bonagura Orange Bowl December 30, 8PM Penn State
Bleacher Report Music City Bowl December 30, 4PM Tennessee
CBS Sports Music City Bowl December 30, 4PM Kentucky
247 Sports Music City Bowl December 30, 4PM Kentucky
Brett McMurphy Pinstripe Bowl December 27, 3:20PM Illinois
ESPN - Schlabach Sun Bowl December 31, 2PM Oregon State
College Football News Sun Bowl December 31, 2PM Arizona State

Virginia picked up six Orange Bowl nods this week, which is considerably more than they’ve earned in previous weeks. Half of the pundits have them headed there, while the other half placed them into a mix of the Sun, Music City, and Pinstripe Bowls. We don’t have any intel yet on how the various bowl committees are leaning.

We’re confident that two places Virginia won’t head are Charlotte or Annapolis after playing there the last two seasons.

Poll

Which Game Would You Be More Likely To Attend?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Orange Bowl vs. Alabama - Miami Gardens, December 30
    (271 votes)
  • 3%
    Sun Bowl vs. Arizona State - El Paso, December 31
    (14 votes)
  • 8%
    Pinstripe Bowl vs. Illinois - The Bronx, December 27
    (36 votes)
  • 23%
    Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky - Nashville, December 30
    (105 votes)
  • 3%
    I Don’t Like Football
    (16 votes)
442 votes total Vote Now

What’s Happening With Virginia

The Wahoos are already bowl-eligible at 7-3. And while all eyes are on the season finale against Virginia Tech, Virginia could pick-up an important eighth win against Liberty on November 23rd. Due to the ACC’s bowl selection rules, an eighth win would mean that Virginia couldn’t get passed over for a team with just six wins. So even if, say, the Music City Bowl preferred to take a 6-6 UNC over an 8-4 Virginia, it wouldn’t be allowed to do so.

By beating Liberty, the Hoos will likely ensure they don’t fall further than a Tier 1 ACC Bowl game.

Grouping the Games

Here’s how the schedule looks currently:

Remaining Must-Win:

  • Liberty (6-4) Home, November 23

Remaining Favorable:

  • Virginia Tech (6-3) Home, November 29

The Virginia Tech game continues to trend back towards a toss-up. The Hokies are playing much better than they were to start the year, and their receivers could pose a challenge for Virginia’s banged-up secondary. The Hoos would still be favored at home if the game were played today — but the line would be much closer than it would have been a month ago.

Sagarin Rankings

Future Opponents:

36 – Virginia

54 – Virginia Tech

118 – Liberty

Virginia dipped slightly in the Sagarin rankings with its close win against the lowly-rated Yellow Jackets. The Hoos rank higher than both of their remaining opponents. Virginia Tech’s rise is notable, however. At 54, the Hokies now fit neatly alongside FSU, Pitt, and North Carolina. All three of those teams played Virginia close — and Tech looks like it will do the same.

More broadly, the Sagarin rankings offer some interesting insight into Virginia’s season so far. The Hoos are 0-2 against higher-ranked teams and 5-1 against lower-ranked teams. While the Miami loss rankled fans, the Sagarin rankings cast it a bit more generously.

Previous Opponents:

15 – @ Notre Dame LOSS

32 – @ Miami LOSS

36 – Virginia

48 – Florida State WIN

50 – @ Pittsburgh WIN

57 – @ North Carolina WIN

60 – Duke WIN

63 – @ Louisville LOSS

100 – Georgia Tech

165 – William & Mary WIN

171 – Old Dominion WIN

What’s Happening Upstream?

Clemson clinched the ACC Atlantic Division with its statement victory over NC State. Did the Tigers find motivation in its No. 5 ranking in last week’s College Football Playoff poll? It sure looked like it. Dabo Swinney’s team went up 28-0 in the first quarter and coasted to victory. Barring something really bizarre, Clemson is bound for either the playoff or the Orange Bowl.

Notre Dame pasted Duke on the road to keep its New Year’s Six Bowl hopes alive. This weekend’s game against Navy will be the last opportunity for the Irish to make an impression on the CFP pollsters. Notre Dame should head to the Camping World Bowl or Citrus Bowl (if the ACC plays a Big Ten team in the Orange Bowl) if it doesn’t make the New Year’s Six.

Wake Forest suffered its second loss on the season on Bud Foster day in Blacksburg. The Deacs don’t have any time to lick their wounds with a trip to Clemson on deck. Wake still has a great shot at the Orange Bowl, but it will need to keep it close against the Tigers and then beat Duke and Syracuse to feel safe.

No one else is “ahead” of Virginia at this point in the ACC bowl picture.

As a reminder, the Orange Bowl picks first among non-playoff ACC teams. The Orange Bowl selection is based wholly on CFP rankings and won’t take into account TV appeal or fan travel reputation. The Camping World Bowl picks next, then the Tier 1 games (Belk, Music City, Sun, and Pinstripe), and then the Tier 2 games (Military, Independence, Quick Lane).

What’s Happening Downstream?

Virginia Tech got its most impressive win of the weekend against Wake Forest. The Hokies still need one more win to reach bowl eligibility. They finish with Georgia Tech, Pitt, and UVA. Tech is in a great position for a Tier 1 game and could end up in the Orange Bowl if it runs the table.

Miami picked up its sixth win in resounding fashion against Louisville. The Canes should get win number seven at FIU before playing Duke in the season finale. Miami figures to be squarely in the Tier 1 bowl discussion and could sneak higher if the right dominoes fall.

Pitt was off this weekend, but has already clinched bowl eligibility at 6-3. The Panthers have UNC, Virginia Tech, and Duke to finish the season. They’re still in the ACC Coastal race and could end up anywhere in the ACC bowl pecking order at this point.

Louisville fell hard against Miami. The Cardinals are 5-4 and have three more chances to become bowl eligible. Scott Satterfield’s squad has an upcoming road game against NC State before hosting Syracuse and wrapping up at Kentucky. A Tier 2 bowl game looks likely.

Florida State got its fifth win of the season against Boston College. The Noles should gain bowl eligibility this weekend against Alabama State. FSU currently projects in a Tier 2 bowl game — but it could climb higher if it beats Florida in the regular-season finale.

Boston College fell to 5-5 with its loss to the Seminoles. With road games at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to end the season, the Eagles will need to pull an upset in order to go bowling.

The three Research Triangle teams all sit at 4-5. North Carolina has a home game against Mercer in its back pocket, but it will need to collect a road win against NC State or Pitt to go bowling. The Wolfpack hosts Louisville and Carolina and goes to Georgia Tech. Duke faces a must-win against Syracuse this weekend. The Devils head to Wake and host Miami to wrap up their season.

Here’s how I currently see the ACC’s bowl lineup playing out:

ACC Bowl Lineup Projections

Team Bowl Game
Team Bowl Game
Clemson College Football Playoff
Wake Forest Orange Bowl
Notre Dame Camping World Bowl
Virginia Tech Belk Bowl
Pittsburgh Pinstripe Bowl
Miami Sun Bowl
Virginia Music City Bowl
Florida State Military Bowl
NC State Independence Bowl
Louisville Quick Lane Bowl

I might be a bit conservative at this point, but I think the Hoos will end up in either Nashville or El Paso. Wake is still in the driver’s seat for the Orange Bowl, in my opinion, and the Camping World won’t pass up a shot at Notre Dame. Tech and Pitt seem like logical choices for Charlotte and The Bronx, respectively.

I think it will come down to Virginia and Miami for the other two Tier 1 games. UVA would travel to Nashville better than Miami would, and the Canes would be a better TV draw for the Sun Bowl. But the Hoos have never played in El Paso and Miami has never played in Nashville, so novelty could be a factor.

Games To Monitor This Week

North Carolina at Pittsburgh (Thursday Night) & Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech -

We’ll have a lot more clarity in the ACC Coastal race after these two games. The Carolina-Pitt game is essentially an elimination game. The clash of the Techs will tell us much more about the Hokies’ resurgence and the threat they pose for the Coastal title.

Wake Forest at Clemson -

Clemson has only had one tough ACC game all year — a tight road win at Carolina. Wake Forest looked like the second-best ACC team for much of the season before losing last week in Blacksburg. Clemson opened as 32.5-point favorites. Wake will suffer in the eyes of the bowl committees if the margin is that wide.

Louisville at NC State -

Both teams need this one for their bowl prospects. NC State will look to redeem itself after getting drubbed by Dabo’s war machine.

That’s it for now. I’ll see you next week, fans.

Until then, keep the faith...and Go Hoos.