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Bowl Watch Week 13: Orange Bowl Still Up For Grabs

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But what about a Doomsday scenario?

NCAA Football: Virginia at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re less than three weeks from Bowl Selection Sunday and the Virginia Cavaliers’ bowl picture remains cloudy. The Hoos could climb as high as the Orange Bowl if things break right. While not likely, they could find themselves falling all the way down to an ACC Tier 2 bowl if things break wrong.

There’s a lot to unpack this week. So let’s get to it!

Current Bowl Projections

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

Week 14 Media Projections

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

Virginia picked up six Orange Bowl nods this week, which is the same number they got last week. But four other ACC teams remain in Orange Bowl contention at this point: VPISU, Wake Forest, Pitt, and Miami.

The pundits who didn’t place the Wahoos in the Orange Bowl this week have them going either to the Sun or Music City Bowls. I agree that those are UVA’s most likely non-Orange destinations, but I believe there’s a doomsday scenario that many aren’t considering. More on that below.

What’s Happening With Virginia:

The Hoos are squarely in the top tier of non-Clemson ACC teams. They sit at 7-3 along with Wake, Pitt, and VPISU. They’re a game ahead of Miami, who sits at 6-4.

Virginia can pick-up an important eighth win against Liberty on Saturday. Doing so would protect it from being passed over for any 6-6 ACC teams.

Grouping the Games

Here’s how the schedule looks currently:

Remaining Must-Win:

  • Liberty (6-4) Home, November 23

Remaining Toss-Up:

  • Virginia Tech (7-3) Home, November 29

As much as it pains me to say it, the VPISU game has moved back to a toss-up. The Gobblers have been the second-best ACC team for the latter half of the season, and they’ll come to Charlottesville with the ACC Coastal division on the line if they beat Pitt this Saturday. Virginia should still be favored when the two teams meet, but the line will be tight.

Tech has closed the gap on UVA in all of the various computer models:

Sagarin Rankings:

Virginia: 32

VPISU: 43

SP+ Ratings:

Virginia: 39

VPISU: 44

ESPN Football Power Index Ratings:

Virginia: 38

VPISU: 49

What’s Happening Upstream?

Clemson beat the snot out of Wake Forest to stay on track for the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame blasted Navy and keeps its New Year’s Six Bowl hopes alive yet again. Wahoo fans should hope both teams run the table, except in the case that Clemson and UVA square off in the ACC title game.

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

What About The Orange Bowl?

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. This is a crucial point. At the moment, it appears that only one ACC team outside of Clemson has a legitimate chance to finish in the CFP Top 25. That team could be Virginia, Virginia Tech, or Pitt depending on what happens in the next three weeks.

If no one is ranked by the CFP, the Orange Bowl can choose whoever it wants as long as the team chosen is one win of all other ACC teams. That’s how a Wake Forest or Miami selection could come into play. An 8-4 Miami team, for example, could be picked over an unranked 9-4 Virginia team.

After the Orange Bowl makes its selection, 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 Midstream?

VPISU got another emphatic win by rolling Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The Hokies are now a legitimate ACC Coastal and Orange Bowl threat. They’ll likely find themselves in the CFP rankings if they beat Pitt and UVA, even if they lose to Clemson. Failing that, they remain in great position for a Tier 1 bowl.

Wake Forest suffered a huge reputational hit with its 52-3 loss at Clemson. The Deacons looked like the ACC’s second-best team for much of the year, but I don’t see how they’ll end up in the CFP rankings given their performances the last two weeks. Wake is still on track for a Tier 1 bowl game, but they need to win their next two games to feel safe.

Pitt joined the 7-3 cohort with an overtime win over UNC. The Panthers could probably sneak into the CFP rankings if they runs the regular season table and win the Coastal. They remain in good shape for a Tier 1 bowl in case they don’t.

Miami, at 6-4, had a bye. The Canes could still finish 8-4 and land an attractive bowl game.

What’s Happening Downstream?

Louisville got its sixth win in convincing fashion against NC State. The Cardinals have two winnable games to end the season. While a Tier 2 bowl game looks likely, a Tier 1 bowl isn’t out of the question.

Florida State reached bowl eligibility under interim head coach Odell Haggins. The Noles beat Alabama State and have a week off before their rivalry game against Florida. FSU projects to a Tier 2 bowl game at the moment.

Boston College had a bye week and remains 5-5. The Eagles need one more win, but they end the season with road games at Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. Their bowl hopes look dire.

The basketball schools (Duke, Carolina, Syracuse)...and NC State...all sit at 4-6. North Carolina and NC State will square off in a bowl elimination game in the season finale. Duke and Syracuse, meanwhile, will underdogs in all of their remaining games this season. It would be a surprise if more than one of these teams makes the postseason.

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

Week 14 STL Bowl Projections

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

I gave Virginia the Orange Bowl nod this week after Wake Forest’s fall from grace. The Hoos still have the easiest path to the ACC championship game, and I think winning the Coastal would be enough to get them invited to Miami Gardens.

Did I Say Doomsday Scenario?

Looking at numbers and schedules, it dawned on me that someone in the top tier of ACC teams could end up getting hosed. Consider this scenario:

  • Virginia Tech wins the ACC Coastal and goes to the Orange Bowl.
  • Notre Dame is too good to pass up and gets the Camping World selection.
  • Wake Forest finishes with 9 wins.
  • Pitt, Virginia, and Miami finish with 8 wins.
  • Louisville finishes with 7 wins.

If things broke this way, Wake would be guaranteed a Tier 1 appearance with its 9 wins. But Louisville could jump Pitt, UVA, or Miami. In a season when the SEC might not have enough teams to fill its Belk and Music City Bowl bids, those games could opt for nearby Wake and Louisville to drive ticket sales. The Pinstripe Bowl, Sun Bowl, and Military Bowl (read: cold Annapolis flashbacks) would choose between Miami, Pitt, and Virginia.

A fall from a potential Orange Bowl bid to a Military Bowl bid would be a kick in the (very cold) gut for any of those fanbases.

Games To Monitor This Week

Liberty at Virginia

The Hoos would do well to get their eighth win and shore up some things before next week.

Pitt at Virginia Tech

This is yet another ACC Coastal elimination game for the Panthers, and the first for Virginia Tech.

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

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