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Bowl Watch Week 9: Virginia Steadies The Ship

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

The Virginia Cavaliers picked up a big win over Duke on Saturday and created some breathing room in the ACC bowl hierarchy in the process. At 5-2 and 3-1 in the ACC, the Hoos are firmly-entrenched in the league’s second-tier behind Clemson. UVA’s joined in that tier by Wake Forest (6-1, 2-1 ACC) and Pittsburgh (5-2, 2-1 ACC).

There are still seven Saturdays between now and Bowl Selection Sunday, but for now, it looks like Clemson, Virginia, Wake, and Pitt are in prime position for bids to the ACC’s top bowl games.

Current Bowl Projections

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

Bowl Watch Week 9

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

Virginia was slotted to make the Orange Bowl in eight of the eleven media projections we track. Pitt received the Orange Bowl nod from USA Today, while Wake Forest got it from Brett McMurphy and Mark Schlabach. All eleven projections had Clemson in the College Football Playoff.

Poll

Which Game Would You Be More Likely To Attend?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    Camping World Bowl vs. Iowa State - Orlando, December 28
    (36 votes)
  • 46%
    Music City Bowl vs. Texas A&M - Nashville, December 30
    (105 votes)
  • 21%
    I Wouldn’t Go To Either
    (49 votes)
  • 15%
    I Would Go To Either One
    (36 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now

What’s Happening With Virginia:

Sagarin Rankings

Not surprisingly, Virginia rose in the Sagarin rankings with its victory over Duke. The Hoos rank higher than all of their remaining opponents, and Sagarin gives them a 63-percent chance of beating Louisville.

Future Opponents:

31 – Virginia

48 – @ North Carolina

61 – @ Louisville

71 – Virginia Tech

89 – Georgia Tech

117 – Liberty

Virginia is also ranked higher than all but one of its previous opponents. Miami is the only lower-ranked opponent to defeat the Hoos this season.

Previous Opponents:

12 – @ Notre Dame LOSS

38 – Virginia

42 – Florida State WIN

45 – @ Pittsburgh WIN

50 – Duke WIN

54 – @ Miami LOSS

161 – Old Dominion WIN

175 – William & Mary WIN

Analysis: Virginia has started to separate itself as the second-best ACC team in the Sagarin ratings. The Cavaliers played their most complete game of the season against Duke. If they play like that consistently, they could very well run the table.

Grouping the Games

I moved the Louisville game from “favorable” to “toss-up” before Week 8 and I’ll keep it there this week. I was tempted to move it back this week and would have if the game were in Charlottesville.

Louisville has been much better offensively than anyone expected this season, but most of their success has come against bad defensive teams. The Cardinals are 1-2 against FBS teams with top 50 defenses (Clemson, Western Kentucky, and Notre Dame) and are 3-1 against defensive bottom feeders (FSU, Wake Forest, Boston College) and FCS teams (Eastern Kentucky).

Virginia’s defense is ranked eighth nationally in yards per game. If the Wahoo defenders play anything like they did against Duke, it could be a long afternoon for the Cardinal offense.

Here’s how the schedule looks currently:

Remaining Must-Win:

  • Liberty (4-2) Home, November 23
  • Georgia Tech (2-5) Home, November 9

Remaining Favorable:

  • Virginia Tech (5-2) Home, November 29

Remaining Toss-Up:

  • Louisville (4-3) Away, October 26
  • North Carolina (3-4) Away, November 2

At 5-2, Virginia needs just one more win to be bowl eligible. Virginia still may need to run the table, however, to maximize its bowl prospects.

What’s Happening Upstream?

Notre Dame had the week off, but is still projected to make a New Year’s Six bowl at this point. Clemson actually dropped to fourth in the AP poll despite beating Louisville 45-10. The Tigers likely won’t face much resistance until they play Wake Forest on November 16. Speaking of the Deacs, Wake Forest nipped Florida State over the weekend and climbed back into the AP top-25 in the process.

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, writes Joe Giglio, will be based wholly on CFP rankings and won’t take into account TV appeal or fan travel reputation. After the Orange, the Camping World Bowl picks next, and then a tier of four bowl games (Belk, Music City, Sun, and Pinstripe) pick after that.

What’s Happening Downstream?

Among the rest of the ACC, Pitt was the only team to establish itself in Week 8. The Panthers beat Syracuse on the road and sit only a half-game behind Virginia in the ACC Coastal standings. It’s hard to pinpoint where Pitt will pick up another loss at this point.

The ACC bowl picture gets murky once we get past the Panthers. Virginia Tech has five wins, but only four of them will count towards bowl eligibility. Assuming the Hokies lose to Notre Dame and beat Georgia Tech, they’ll still need to find another win against Wake, Pitt, or Virginia to go bowling.

At the moment, Georgia Tech is the only ACC team with negligible bowl hopes. Everyone else has a shot (for now). Duke, NC State, Louisville, all lost last week, but they still have four wins. Boston College picked up its fourth with a win over the Wolfpack. Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Syracuse all sit at 3-4.

Games To Monitor This Week

Virginia at Louisville

The Wahoos control their own destiny in the ACC Coastal and can continue to get separation with a win against Louisville. I’ve been impressed with the Cardinals all season, but their performances against “good” defenses leave a lot to be desired. Virginia proved last week that it’s capable of playing suffocating defense even without Bryce Hall. The Hoos are currently 3.5-point road favorites.

Miami at Pittsburgh

Miami still needs three wins to go to a bowl game, but it only plays one more game at home. The Canes have underperformed all season (except against Virginia, of course), and frankly just might not be that good. Pitt could keep pace with UVA with a win here.

Duke at North Carolina

Both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels have two ACC losses, which makes this an ACC Coastal elimination game. Neither team has established an identity at this point, so it’s anyone’s guess how this one will go. Carolina opened as a home favorite.

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

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