In the hours after Virginia’s 39-30 win over Virginia Tech on Friday, the Cavalier faithful started deliberating online about the team’s potential bowl destinations.
The one game on every fan’s radar is the Orange Bowl.
The New Year’s Six bowl holds tremendous prestige and would be Virginia’s second major bowl game appearance in program history. The Cavaliers played in the Sugar Bowl in 1991.
With the ACC bowl picture a bit foggy outside of Clemson, trying to determine where the Cavaliers (9-3, 6-2 ACC) might play can be a challenge, but the Orange Bowl is the likeliest landing spot for the Wahoos.
Beating the Tigers is the simplest way to make the Orange Bowl. If Virginia beats Clemson in the ACC Championship Game on Saturday in Charlotte, the Cavaliers clinch an automatic berth into the Orange Bowl as the ACC champion.
The scenarios become more complicated should UVa fall to Clemson. Given the fact that the Cavaliers will likely enter Saturday’s contest against the Tigers as close to a four-touchdown underdog, these scenarios could very well come into play.
If Virginia loses to Clemson, the Tigers will likely earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. This means the Orange Bowl won’t take the ACC champion because they will be in the College Football Playoff. The Orange Bowl then automatically selects the next highest-ranked ACC team outside of Clemson.
Coming into this week, Virginia Tech was the only ACC team outside of Clemson that was nationally ranked. UVa beat the Hokies on Friday, which means there’s a good chance the Cavaliers jump into the College Football Playoff’s top 25 rankings on Tuesday.
Virginia is ranked 22nd in both the coaches and AP polls after beating Virginia Tech. If the Cavaliers lose to Clemson and are the highest ranked ACC team in the College Football Playoff committee’s final top 25 outside of Clemson, they’ll earn the Orange Bowl berth.
The weirdest scenario comes if Clemson beats Virginia in the ACC Championship Game and the College Football Playoff committee doesn’t rank an ACC team other than Clemson in its final rankings. If that happens, the Orange Bowl is allowed to select any ACC team to represent the conference in the Orange Bowl.
Logically, the Cavaliers would still have a great chance of being selected given its ACC Coastal Division title and a 6-2 ACC record, but nothing would be guaranteed.
One thing working in the Cavaliers’ favor is that the College Football Playoff committee tends to not drop teams far for losing in conference championship games. Last season, Northwestern was ranked 21st in the CFP rankings heading into the conference championship games. The Wildcats lost 45-24 to Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game, but only dropped one spot to 22nd in the final CFP rankings.
Utah remained at No. 17 in the final CFP rankings despite a 10-3 loss to Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game, while Texas dropped only one spot, from 14th to 15th, following a 39-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game. So if the Cavaliers are ranked in the College Football Playoff’s top 25 on Tuesday, there is a decent chance they will stay there regardless of what happens in the ACC Championship Game.
For Virginia to ensure a spot in the Orange Bowl, it needs a win over Clemson. If the Cavaliers lose to the Tigers, it’ll come down to College Football Playoff committee rankings. If the rankings don’t solve the issue, the Orange Bowl takes its pick of ACC teams.