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Bowl Watch Week 7: Big Opportunity For Virginia Against Miami

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UVA could turbocharge its bowl hopes with a win against the Hurricanes.

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

With the Virginia Cavaliers on a bye, your faithful Bowl Watch writer traveled to New Orleans for a weekend with some Wahoo alums. I didn’t watch much college football down there, but I kept an eye on scores throughout the day and talked a good bit about the progress of Bronco Mendenhall’s team. It’s the best I could do…shrug.

My main takeaway from this weekend’s action is that New Orleans is delightful. And I promise that’s relevant. You see, it just so happens that New Orleans hosts something called the “Sugar Bowl.” Someone should tell Mendenhall and Carla Williams to get Virginia into said “Sugar Bowl.” I’m sure it would only take a phone call, but that might be the Voodoos talking.

Onto more serious stuff…

Opponent Update

Here’s a look at how Virginia’s upcoming opponents fared in week six:

After winning at New Mexico in Week 5, Liberty lost at New Mexico State. You gotta give it to the Flames for playing back-to-back games out there. Unfortunately, they learned a hard lesson: you don’t just saunter into the great state of, um…New Mexico…and push the Aggies around.

Georgia Tech went to Louisville and pasted the Cardinals 66-31. With the Cardinals a veritable dumpster at present, Virginia’s 27-3 over Louisville looks less impressive every week. Georgia Tech’s triple option, meanwhile, can still make other teams look silly if they can’t stop it. Given Virginia’s injury-laden front seven, the Jackets will prove a tough test come November.

Pitt got a nice home win against Syracuse in overtime. This one was a bit of a surprise. You might recall that the entire Streaking the Lawn staff ranked Syracuse ahead of Pitt in last week’s power rankings. It goes to show you that it’s hard winning ACC road games unless you’re playing at Louisville. (Burn!)

Miami used a furious second-half comeback to nip Florida State, 28-27. In some ways, this might have been the best possible outcome for Virginia, which faces the Canes on Saturday. Miami will certainly have a major talent advantage when it comes to Charlottesville. But will Mark Richt’s team be emotionally spent from a dramatic win against its main rival? Will they have a letdown? Here’s hoping.

Finally, Virginia Tech went to halftime down 17-16 to Notre Dame. They ended up losing 45-23. I applaud their performance. The Hokies clearly saw an opportunity to let a close game turn into a blowout, and they seized it. They did NOT throw away their shot. Lin-Manuel Miranda would be proud.

Schedule assessment

For the second week in a row, I haven’t made any changes to our UVA schedule ratings. The Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech wins are notable, but they aren’t important enough to warrant a ratings change. Here’s a current look at how Virginia’s schedule stacks up:

For context, UVA is ranked higher than three of its remaining opponents in the Sagarin ratings (UNC, Pitt, Liberty) and five in the S&P+ ratings (UNC, Pitt, Liberty, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech). As of this week, SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gives Virginia a 93% chance of winning six or more games.

Bowl projections

Pick your pleasure, Cavalier fans: Detroit, Shreveport, or Tampa? Nearly all of this week’s bowl projections have Virginia playing in one of those three games this winter.

Does Detroit in December sound like your cup of (probably really cold) tea? Then you’ll like the projection from Sports Illustrated, which has Virginia in the Quick Lane Bowl against Minnesota (December 26).

Have you dreamed of driving 17 hours in an RV the day after Christmas to go to Shreveport? If so, you’ll like the projections from College Football News, USA Today, and The Orlando Sentinel, which have Virginia facing Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, and South Florida in the Independence Bowl (December 27).

Are you so overwhelmed with those options that you can’t decide? Then the prediction from ESPN is the one for you. One of the ESPN writers has Virginia in the Quick Lane Bowl against Indiana, and the other has it in the Independence Bowl against FIU.

Want something else? Well, SB Nation still has Virginia facing South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, December 20). Brett McMurphy sees it similarly. And I would love for this to happen for a number of reasons, not least of which is because the Gasparilla Bowl’s Twitter account often talks like a pirate.

Surprisingly, The Sporting News dropped Virginia from its projections this week in lieu of Pitt. The good folks there clearly haven’t looked at Pitt’s schedule.

The path forward

Virginia gets its biggest opportunity for a 2018 marquee win this weekend against Miami. The Hoos led the Canes 28-14 in the second half last year in Coral Gables before imploding. An upset Saturday night would give UVA’s bowl hopes a major boost and raise the program’s profile generally. Virginia hasn’t beaten a team ranked in the top 15 since it upset Georgia Tech in 2011.

Elsewhere in the ACC, we’ll keep a close Week 7 eye on the action as Duke travels to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech goes to North Carolina. As always, we’ll be back next week with more info. Looking forward to it!