Week 14 is in the books with the Hoos taking the proverbial next step, beating VT and winning the Division . Time to recap the win and take one last look at the rest of the Division:
Quick Hit Thoughts from the Game
I know, I said last week that it would be my last of the year. Couldn't help myself. You get one more, you'll understand.
Usually I use this space to highlight both the good and the bad of the week's game. This week, I have no desire to nitpick, as I obviously don't care. We won, and this space today will only celebrate all the great moments of the win. Nor will I use it to talk any trash to Hokie fans or players. This space is 100% for celebrating OUR guys.
The Hokies hadn't allowed a single point in over nine quarters. Virginia got on the board right away with two first quarter touchdowns. Critical for confidence.
Nick Grant's third down stop on the goal line to hold the Hokies to a field goal was baller. Shed a strong block to make a tough open field tackle.
Great first half defense all around for the Hoos, holding the Hokies without a touchdown for a half for the first time since the first half of their Wake Forest game.
I realize it was entirely symbolic, but the interception on the half-ending hail Mary was VT QB Hendon Hooker's first INT of the season.
The third quarter was painful, but let's be honest, we knew VT was going to make a run. Virginia wasn't going to coast to this win, it was going to have to earn it by battling back in the 4th quarter.
Anyone who crows about the refs either way, it was a tough game for the zebras. Lots of really tough plays for them to call, to be asked to overturn. I want that Joey Blount interception along the back line of the endzone, and I want that pass interference (defensive holding) call on Hasise's defender.
Speaking of Hasise, his stiff-arm for 20 yards against Hokie redshirt freshman DB Armani Chatman was just nuts. That's what a nails-tough senior does to a rookie. One of the plays of the game, and so emblematic of this team's toughness.
Another play of the game was Delaney's 48 yard field goal. So many years that UVA didn't have a kicker who could make that, either due to distance or pressure. The guy shook off that first PAT shank to nail the game-winner, one of the biggest kicks in UVA football history.
Another guy who shook off a bad play to atone, Billy Kemp picked up a stupid unsportsmanlike flag away from the play, but a drive later made a great move off a comeback route to shake his defender and race for a 25 yard touchdown. Looking forward to two more years with this kid.
Once upon a time this season the O-Line took genuine heat. But they played great this month, limiting the pressure on Perkins and allowing him to succeed in the passing game. It goes largely unnoticed, but Perkins doesn't throw for 311 yards without the incredible job Tujague's crew did.
D-Line and the front 7 in general was incredible. Made Hooker's life uncomfortable as best they could, sacking him 6 times, forcing him into tough throws on others. And we didn't need a ton of crazy blitzes to do it; four man fronts were often able to collapse the pocket just fine. Goes without saying, their defensive stand after Delaney's game-winning FG was just an incredible statement of a group that would not be denied.
So many other great moments and plays, impossible to call out the contributions of every player and coach. But they're all appreciated, every key block, every correct assignment, every catch and carry and kick and tackle.
UVA won its first Coastal Division title ever. The League's been split into divisions since the 2003 expansion. That's a long time.
UVA completed its first undefeated November since 1999, a year we played VT early in the season and went 3-0 in November against a ranked Georgia Tech (the hook-and-ladder game), Buffalo, and Maryland.
It's our first 4-0 November since 1951, but that's a little misleading since seasons used to be shorter and most years only three games were played in November.
A few weeks ago I started looking up scenarios for UVA to win the division should it drop a game late, most likely due to a loss to VT, and how we'd need other teams to "help" us by losing and allowing a 5-3 ACC record to be enough (maybe via tiebreakers). The season of course unfolded differently, and the only way UVA could win the division was to beat a red-hot Virginia Tech, and if we didn't win it, they would. In hindsight, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Winning this game with EVERYTHING on the line was the best possible way to end the regular season.
Virginia's got the inside track to the Orange Bowl. Others at Hoos Place will go more into depth this week, but here's the basics: Beat Clemson, we're the ACC champs, auto berth to the Orange. Lose to Clemson, the Tigers go to the Playoff, and the #2 ACC team goes to the Orange Bowl. That's 98% likely us. There's a slim chance we could get blown out badly enough to drop from the polls and the Orange would have the option to pick another ACC team within certain criteria (Wake and VT would be eligible), though they'd still likely pick UVA.
That means UVA potentially enters a three game stretch (wrapping into the start of next season) that will see UVA face down Clemson (in Charlotte), Top 10 Team TBD (in Miami), and Georgia (in Atlanta). Win any of those three and UVA looks really good. Win more than one and UVA's a recognized power.
Re: Clemson, UVA has a David-vs-Goliath opportunity here. Clemson's one of America's best programs right now for a reason, with the holy trifecta of talent, depth, and coaching working in their favor. Realistically speaking, the hope is for UVA to keep it competitive and respectable.
For those who want to dream big, and lord knows our players and coaches fully expect to win this game, here's a ray of light: We're arguably the best team Clemson's faced all year. Throw out their games against Georgia Tech (3-9), Charlotte (mid-major), and Wofford (FCS)... probably also Syracuse (5-7), NC State (4-8), and South Carolina (4-8). Then there are the .500 teams in BC, UNC, and FSU (all 6-6), and Clemson played just three teams this season that finished with winning records: Texas A&M (7-5), Louisville (7-5), and Wake Forest (8-4).
Once more, with feeling: Thank you, seniors. Bryce Perkins, Chris Sharp, Joe Reed, Hasise Dubois, Dejon Brissett, Ben Hogg, Justin Zollar, Reed Kellam, Eli Hanback, Tanner Cowley, Bryce Hall, Richard Burney, Terrell Chatman, Jordan Mack. Thank you all. Your last game in Scott is one we'll talk about for decades.
Depth Chart Moves
Only major change this week is in the defensive backfield where the suspended Chris Moore (held out of both the Liberty and Virginia Tech games) is now officially off the depth chart. RS Fr Jaylon Baker is the backup at both corner spots and true Fr Tenyeh Dixon at both safety spots.
Coastal Power Rankings
Let's see how the Coastal looks with everyone's regular season wrapped:
1. Virginia (Prev: 2) - 9-3 (6-2) - The Hoos complete their bounce-back to the top of the Division with a 39-30 win over rival VT to capture the division cleanly. Not much to add that hasn't already been said.
2. VT (Prev: 1) - 8-4 (5-3) - After surging into the polls with a great October/November, VT ends its season in disappointing fashion. But the Hokies should still get a good bowl invite (maybe Nashville or Orlando) and return a ton of pieces next year to build around. Coaching staff moves (replacing retiring DC Bud Foster first and foremost) will be the most critical element of their offseason.
3. Pitt (Prev: 3) - 7-5 (4-4) - Pitt was looking at an outside shot at the Division title two weeks ago, but closed the season in very disappointing fashion, first getting shut out 28-0 in Blacksburg and then losing at home to a (then) 5-6 BC. The Panthers likely played themselves out of a Tier II bowl with this slide.
4. North Carolina (Prev: 4) - 6-6 (4-4) - UNC took care of business against an NC State team suffering a lost season. It puts them in a bowl game under new-again HC Mack Brown and rookie record-setting QB Sam Howell. It's a nice bump for a young team after some recent close ACC losses.
5. Miami (Prev: 5) - 6-6 (4-4) - The Canes had arguably the Coastal's most disappointing November. After seemingly turning things around in October, they closed the year with losses to FIU and Duke. Those losses do little to buffer confidence in new coach Manny Diaz.
6. Duke (Prev: 6) - 5-7 (3-5) - Playing for nothing but pride this past weekend, Duke knocked off a visiting Miami by double digits, giving the Devils a nice little bump going into a long offseason.
7. GT (Prev: 7) - 3-9 (2-6) - As expected, GT ended its year on the wrong end of a blowout to SEC heavyweight Georgia. The season was long, but had its bright spots, as the Jackets upset Miami, challenged UVA, and beat NC State down the stretch. Critical offseason for head coach Geoff Collins.
Non-UVA Games to Watch this Weekend
No other conference games, obviously, but as UVA eyes up crashing the New Year's Six party with a strong showing against Clemson, Virginia's possible bowl opponent could easily be a Top 10 team. That means the other P5 conference title games, and the ensuing effects on the College Football Playoff rankings, have a significant impact on UVA's potential foe in a few more weeks:
#6 Utah vs #14 Oregon - 8:00 PM Eastern - ABC: The Utes at 11-1 are looking to sneak into the CFP 4-seed with a win and maybe some help elsewhere. The Ducks at 10-2 are hoping to get a Rose Bowl bid with a win. Highly unlikely UVA sees either next month, but a convincing Utes win could bump an SEC team out of the CFP and into the Orange Bowl against the Hoos.
#9 Baylor vs #7 Oklahoma - 12:00 PM Eastern - ABC: The Bears and Sooners, both 11-1, are both hoping to be the 4th seed in the CFP. Not super relevant to us, as neither is likely to be our bowl opponent. Like Utah, though, they could bump an SEC or B1G team out of the CFP and down to meet us.
#2 LSU vs #4 Georgia - 4:00 PM Eastern - CBS: The SEC championship game is incredibly relevant for the Hoos, as the Orange Bowl (should UVA end up there) will pick a highly ranked SEC or B1G program to be the ACC's foe. LSU (12-0) and UGA (11-1) both have Playoff title dreams. UGA could fall to NY6 consideration with a loss.
#1 Ohio State vs #12 Wisconsin - 8:00 PM Eastern - Fox: Wisconsin (10-2) is here to play spoiler against the undefeated Buckeyes. An OSU win would keep them in the CFP and bump Wisconsin out of NY6 consideration, though maybe opening a door for non-participants like Penn State or Michigan to be our bowl foe.
The Remaining Schedule
Saturday, Dec 7 - Clemson: Win confidence 2 - UVA was instilled as almost a four touchdown underdog against a Clemson team that hasn't lost since January 1st, 2018 (against Bama in the 2017-18 CFP semifinals). No one's expecting UVA to pull off the upset. But who among us Hoos really wants to bet against this UVA team right now?
TBD - Bowl Game: Win confidence TBD - Hoos await their bowl assignment and opponent, likely to be announced this Sunday. Should be a good, high profile one.
Final regular season record: 9-3 (6-2)