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Bowl Watch Week 2: The hype train has left the station

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Now is not the time to be rational.

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NCAA Football: Virginia at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Towards the end of Virginia’s win against Pittsburgh on Saturday night, some of my friends started puffing out their chests on our UVA group text.

My friend Chris called it a “statement game”.

My friend Brian sent out a picture of a bowl full of fruit.

My friend Adam was confused about the fruit until Brian noted: “It’s a bowl of oranges. Get it? Orange Bowl.”

It was that kind of night.

Virginia indeed made a statement by beating the defending ACC Coastal champs on their home field. That “choo choo” sound you hear? It’s the hype train. And it’s full of unbridled optimism and irrationality this week.

Bowl Watch is back and your train conductor is HYPED. Choo choo, motherchucker.

Where We Are

Virginia made a big jump in the Sagarin rankings and now ranks higher than eight of its remaining opponents. Florida State, Duke, Pitt, and Georgia Tech all dropped, while UVA and North Carolina rose. Virginia also jumped Virginia Tech over the weekend.

The HYPE train thinks that UVA could be ranked higher than both Florida State and Miami by the time those games arrive.

11 – @ Notre Dame

28 – @ Miami

29 – Florida State (down from 23)

30 – Virginia (up from 42)

45 – Virginia Tech

51 – @ North Carolina (up from 63)

58 – Duke (down from 48)

59 – @ Pittsburgh WIN (down from 43)

65 – Georgia Tech (down from 58)

83 – @ Louisville

132 – Liberty

160 – Old Dominion (down from 137)

188 – William & Mary

Grouping the Games

At 1-0, Virginia now needs five more wins to reach bowl eligibility. The Hoos can do that by sweeping their “must-win” games and going two-for-three in their “favorable” games. The HYPE train believes they’ll do that and more.

Must-Win:

  • William & Mary (1-0) Home, September 6
  • Old Dominion (1-0) Home, September 21
  • Liberty (0-1) Home, November 23

Analysis: Nothing happened over the weekend to make me believe that Virginia won’t be heavily-favored in all three of these. Old Dominion almost lost to Norfolk State. Liberty’s Hugh Freeze coached from a hospital bed. W&M started the Mike London era 1-0.

Virginia welcomes the Tribe on Friday night in what should be a fun Wahoo reunion. London’s staff includes former Cavaliers Josh Zidenberg, Darryl Blackstock, Keenan Carter, Ras-I Dowling, Gordie Sammis, and Matt Johns. Dowling and Blackstock are two of the best ever to play at their positions at UVA. Here’s hoping they get a pleasant welcome.

Favorable:

  • Duke (0-1) Home, October 19
  • Louisville (0-1) Away, October 26
  • Georgia Tech (0-1) Home, November 9

Analysis: Duke got kudos for “showing some fight” against Alabama and Louisville looked much better than expected. To be sure, expectations are low for the previously listless Cardinals. Nothing here made me change my opinion on these teams yet.

Toss-Up:

  • Pittsburgh (0-1) Away, August 31
  • Florida State (0-1) Home, September 14
  • North Carolina (1-0) Away, November 2
  • Virginia Tech (0-1) Home, November 29

Analysis: If you liked my initial grouping of Virginia’s opponents, you must have gotten HYPED by what you saw on Saturday. Virginia won the first of its four “toss-up” games and saw two of its other “toss-up” opponents lose. Florida State choked away an 18-point lead at home against Boise State, and Turkey Bacon Tech* fell on the road against Boston College. Only North Carolina exceeded expectations.

*Turkey Bacon Tech is what I’m calling VPISU for the time being. It’s a reference to this quote from Sports Illustrated’s piece on Hokie football dysfunction:

“Amid all of this, Fuente called the emergency meeting, rounding up his players via text message to gather in the team meeting room...One by one, players began to express their frustration and make suggestions for change within the program. Some of the requests were more trivial in nature. For instance, they asked for turkey bacon to be served in the dining hall and the next week, turkey bacon was served in the dining hall.”

Coach Fuente might need a new motivational tactic. Turkey Bacon, we all know, is not as good as the real thing.

Unfavorable:

  • Miami (0-1) Away, October 11

Analysis: Miami had the weekend off after losing to Florida in Week 0.

Longshot:

  • Notre Dame (1-0) Away, September 28

Analysis: Notre Dame didn’t put Louisville away until the second half Monday night. The Irish still look like the best team on Virginia’s schedule.

Current Bowl Projections

Here’s where the media currently has Virginia going, ranked subjectively by my HYPE LEVEL. Feel free to disagree.

247 Sports has Virginia in the Orange Bowl against Florida (Miami Gardens, December 30). USA Today has the Hoos here against LSU. Brett McMurphy and Sports Illustrated have ‘em here against Ohio State.

Analysis: THE HYPE TRAIN IS CAREENING DOWN THE TRACK. Seriously. If Virginia makes a New Year’s Six Bowl, it might as well play a big-time program, right? Go big or go home. Florida, LSU, and Ohio State would certainly fit the bill. I look forward to sipping rum drinks on the beach in Fort Lauderdale before watching Virginia football play on its biggest stage ever.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach has Virginia in the Citrus Bowl against Auburn (Orlando, January 1).

Analysis: HYPE LEVEL HIGH. Who wouldn’t want to play an SEC team on New Year’s Day? This is why we watch college football.

CBS Sports has Virginia in the Camping World Bowl against Iowa State (Orlando, December 28). College Football News has the Hoos here against TCU.

Analysis: HYPE LEVEL MEDIUM.Both of these would be games worth attending. In a world where four publications didn’t have Virginia going to the Orange Bowl, my HYPE LEVEL would be much higher for either of these matchups.

The Sporting News has Virginia in the Music City Bowl against Vanderbilt (Nashville, December 30). ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura has the Hoos here against Kentucky.

Analysis: HYPED FOR COUNTRY MUSIC. I love Nashville. I will use any excuse to go there. Neither Vanderbilt nor Kentucky get me too excited at this point. But Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music get me HYPED.

SB Nation/Banner Society has Virginia in the Sun Bowl against Arizona State (El Paso, December 31).

Analysis: HYPE LEVEL MEH. If this ends up being the matchup, I could see myself eventually getting HYPED. In week two, however, this game doesn’t move the needle.

Games To Monitor This Week

Virginia vs. William & Mary - Friday night’s home opener promises to be a little weird with Mike London returning to Charlottesville. William & Mary plays a unique style on offense and will no doubt be up for this one. Also intriguing will be the premiere of the much HYPED Scott Stadium beer gardens. Will they have Naturdays? Will they have Claws? Only time will tell.

Old Dominion at Virginia Tech - There are some surprisingly good storylines for a game in which Tech is favored by 29. How will the two teams respond to last year’s shocking ODU victory in Norfolk? What will former Hokies Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham think as they walk out for the coin toss as Monarch captains? What will the reception be for Tech generally after a 6-7 2018 season and an opening loss to Boston College?

Miami at North Carolina - The Tar Heels made the biggest waves in Week 1 by upsetting South Carolina in Charlotte. Are the Heels for real? Is Mack really back? What about Miami, which played Florida close in Week 0? Virginia fans should have a better idea of both of these opponents after Saturday night’s game.

That’s it for now. Stay HYPED, fans. I’ll see you in Scott Stadium Friday night and back here next week.

Until then, Go Hoos.