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Bowl Watch Week 14: Orange Bowl On The Line Friday

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NCAA Football: Liberty at Virginia Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Cavaliers picked up their eighth win of the season Saturday, beating Liberty by 28 points at Scott Stadium.

Now...onto business.

The Hoos will host that team from the Southwest on Friday in the most significant game in almost a decade. A win would mean:

  • UVA’s first ACC Coastal title and a berth in the ACC title game.
  • The end of a 15-year losing streak that hangs like a pall over the program’s progress.
  • The eighth 9-win season in school history.
  • State bragging rights.
  • A .500 record for Bronco Mendenhall at UVA. After starting 2-10, Mendenhall now sits at 24-25 as Virginia’s head coach.
  • A 17th win as a starter for Bryce Perkins...tying him with Matt Schaub.

And...most important for this column, a potential berth in the Orange Bowl against a power program from the SEC or Big Ten.

No pressure.

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 seven Orange Bowl nods this week, which is one higher than it received last week. Only one other ACC team got an Orange Bowl projection: those other guys.

The pundits who didn’t place the Wahoos in the Orange Bowl this week have them going to the Sun, Music City, or Pinstripe Bowls. That’s a good reflection of how cloudy the Tier 1 ACC bowl picture remains.

What’s Happening With Virginia:

The Hoos are squarely in the top tier of non-Clemson ACC teams. They sit at 8-3 along with Wake and Someone Else. They’re a game ahead of Louisville and Pitt, who sit at 7-4.

At eight wins, Virginia can’t get passed over for any 6-win ACC team for a bowl game. They could distance themselves from the pack even further by winning Friday.

Grouping the Games

Here’s how the schedule looks currently:

Remaining Toss-Up:

  • Zero NCAA championships (8-3) Home, November 29.

Man oh man, does Virginia’s season finale project to be a tight one. The Vegas line opened as a pick ‘em pm Sunday afternoon and has wobbled in each direction since then. I was actually surprised to see that the Hoos weren’t installed as a slight underdog given the way their upcoming opponents have played as of late.

The various computer models have gotten tighter than my belt line after a Thanksgiving feast:

Sagarin Rankings:

Malcolm Brogdon’s Alma Mater: 32

Michael Vick’s Alma Mater: 35

(Sagarin gives UVA a 56% chance of winning)

Bill Connelly’s SP+ Ratings:

Has Tony Bennett: 37

Doesn’t Have Tony Bennett: 42

(The SP+ predicts a 27-23 Wahoo victory)

ESPN Football Power Index Ratings:

Designed By Thomas Jefferson: 37

Kinda Resembles a Prison: 46

(The FPI gives Virginia a 65% chance of winning)

What’s Happening Upstream?

Clemson had the week off and projects to be in the College Football Playoff. Notre Dame blasted Boston College and kept its slim New Year’s Six Bowl hopes alive.

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. Only one ACC team outside of Clemson has a legitimate chance to finish in the CFP Top 25: the winner of Friday’s Commonwealth Clash.

If no one is ranked by the CFP, the Orange Bowl can apparently choose whoever it wants.

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?

That other school got its best win of the season Saturday, shutting out Pitt in a driving rainstorm. It can likely lock up an Orange Bowl bid by winning Friday and will end up in a Tier 1 bowl with a loss.

Wake Forest got back on the winning track with an emphatic victory over Duke. According to 247 Sports, the Deacons could be an appealing pick for the Camping World Bowl if they end up with 9 wins and if Notre Dame makes it to the New Year’s Six.

What’s Happening Downstream?

Pitt dropped to 7-4 after its loss in The Seventh Circle of Hell on Saturday. The Panthers look like a logical pick for the Pinstripe Bowl at this point, but we won’t know for sure for at least another week.

Louisville moved to 7-4 with a convincing home win against Syracuse. The Cardinals are a slight underdog at Kentucky to end the season, but could make a strong statement for a Tier 1 bowl game if they pull off the upset.

Miami suffered its most embarrassing loss of the season against Florida International. Playing at the site of the old Orange Bowl Stadium, the Canes fell behind 16-3 through three quarters before attempting to rally. Adding insult to injury? Former Miami big whistle Butch Davis is the coach of FIU. Maybe that result will be in the next ESPN 30 for 30.

The Canes had become a trendy pick for an Orange Bowl bid in the case where the ACC didn’t have a second Top 25 team outside of Clemson. That possibility was significantly reduced with The U’s latest flop.

Florida State had the week off in advance of its season finale against #8 Florida. The Noles are heavy underdogs against the Gators and appear headed to a Tier 2 bowl game.

North Carolina pounded Mercer 56-7 to move to 5-6. The Heels need to beat NC State on Saturday to get back to a bowl game after a two-year hiatus. UNC opened as a 6.5-point road favorite.

Boston College had a brief 7-6 lead in the second quarter against Notre Dame. The Irish scored the next 34 points and won 40-7. At 5-6, BC will need to upset Pitt on the road to make it to a bowl game. The Eagles opened as 8.5-point road underdogs.

Duke, NC State, and Syracuse all picked up their seventh losses Saturday and fell out of bowl contention.

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 again this week. But as mentioned, Friday’s winner can probably start packing its flip flops for Miami Gardens.

Games To Monitor This Week

The Virginia Game - Friday at noon

Please see the reasons outlined above. It all comes down to this...as it very well should.

Louisville at Kentucky, Miami at Duke, Wake Forest at Syracuse, Boston College at Pitt

Just think how fun it will be to watch these games after the Hoos pick up their win on Friday.

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

Until then, keep the faith, and let’s beat those jerks.

Go Hoos.