NCAA

Why Virginia's blowout loss to Clemson doesn't matter

uva-acc-championship-usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Why Virginia's blowout loss to Clemson doesn't matter

When Virginia stepped onto the field Saturday, they were playing for the ACC Championship and a bid to the Orange Bowl. After losing 62-17 to Clemson, the Cavaliers will now most likely have to settle for...a bid to the Orange Bowl.

Virginia gave everything they had on Saturday in the ACC Championship Game, but it was not enough as the Clemson Tigers rolled to earn a fifth straight conference title and its 28th straight win. Trevor Lawrence diced up UVA's secondary to the tune of 302 yards and four touchdowns while Travis Etienne dominated on the ground with 114 yards and a touchdown on just 14 carries. Bryce Perkins, meanwhile, did manage 324 total yards and two passing touchdowns, but he also threw two interceptions and was largely bottled up by a stifling Clemson defense despite what the numbers may indicate.

The result was not unexpected, nor was the margin of victory (Clemson was favored by 28 heading into the game).  While a blowout loss to a team flirting with a dynasty may seem like a disappointing reward for Virginia's first nine-win regular season since 2007 and winning the Coastal Division for the first time ever, there is a silver lining. Even with the loss, the Cavaliers are still almost certainly locked into an Orange Bowl bid.

As the ACC champ, Clemson is guaranteed the league's Orange Bowl bid unless they are invited to the College Football Playoff which they will be. The Tigers entered the week ranked No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings and at 13-0 will make a fifth straight appearance in the playoff.

So what happens to the league's Orange Bowl bid?

When the champion is invited to the playoff, the bowl bid then must be extended to the next highest-ranked team in the conference.

Heading into championship week, Virginia was the only other ranked team in the ACC besides Clemson. Saturdays' loss will likely bump them from the top 25, but it would be shocking if they were to fall so far as to warrant a discussion of whether to invite 8-4 Wake Forest or 8-4 Virginia Tech (who the Cavaliers just beat) over 9-4 UVA.

The short season and high stakes of college football conditions us to think that every game matters. While certainly winning a conference championship would not have been meaningless for UVA's football program, the result will ultimately have little effect on Virginia's final destination this season.

We will know soon enough. The bowl selections will be made on Sunday. The College Football Playoff teams are set to be unveiled at 12:15 p.m. and the New Year's Six bowl game pairings are scheduled to be revealed at 3 p.m.

You can pencil Dec. 30 into your calendars now, Cavaliers fans, because, barring something completely unexpected, UVA will be playing at Hard Rock Stadium in the Orange Bowl that night.

MORE NCAA NEWS:

An impressive record still has the Liberty Flames in a must-win spot to make March Madness

An impressive record still has the Liberty Flames in a must-win spot to make March Madness

When one looks at the best records in college basketball, the first teams that come to mind are the ones around the No. 1 seed conversation: Gonzaga, San Diego State, Dayton, Kansas, etc. One team that is a surprising outlier? The Liberty Flames. 

Liberty has quietly amassed a 27-3 record for the 5th best record in college basketball as of this writing.  They’ve rolled through their season with their only losses coming on the road at LSU, North Florida and Stetson. 

But in the Atlantic Sun, they have struggled to put together a quality resume that would give them a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament. While the win total is impressive, a small number are considered relatively good. Only two games are rated as a Quadrant 1 or 2 opportunity – where they went 1-1 – the remaining 25 are in Q3 and Q4. 

When the NCAA eliminated the RPI as a metric to determine the NCAA Tournament field, the Quadrant system was implemented to rank the quality of games based on the opponent and where the game was played. And in the committee’s eyes, Liberty does not meet the standards to solidly be in the NCAA Tournament. 

Bracketologists are unified though in their analysis of the Flames. They’re one of the best teams from a single-bid conference and are currently on the No. 12 seed line. With that being the current positioning of the bubble, many teams will have an interest in how the Flames finish the season. 

Liberty will instantly pop in the bubble conversation if they lose in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Likely, they probably won’t make it to the big dance if they get another loss to an Atlantic Sun team. But it will make other teams sweat for the final two weeks. To solidify their spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, Liberty will have to win the A-Sun tournament.

They run a style similar to Virginia. A focus on defensive effort and limited possessions for the opposition. Their offense is balanced more efficiently than last season as they have three scorers averaging more than 10 points a game. 

They don’t match up well against many teams in the country. Last year they proved it by upsetting Mississippi State in a No. 5 vs. No. 12 contest. Power 5 teams won’t want to see this team on their side of the bracket this year either. 

It's not out of the question that the Flames could lose somewhere in their conference tournament. If they do, they'll have an automatic qualifier for the NIT. 

Liberty Flames Resume

Record: 27-3 
NET: 47
KenPom: 57
BPI: 40
Average Seed: 12
Q1 Record: 0-1
Q2 Record: 1-0
Q3 Record: 4-1
Q4 Record: 20-1
Best win: Akron -neutral site (NET: 79)
Worst loss: @ Stetson (NET: 304)
Remaining Schedule: Atlantic Sun Tournament

MORE NCAA NEWS:

Maryland women's lacrosse refuses to travel to Syracuse due to weather concerns

Maryland women's lacrosse refuses to travel to Syracuse due to weather concerns

The Maryland women's lacrosse team is getting an unexpected home game after concerns from the Terps' athletic department about the forecast in Syracuse, N.Y.

A game that was slated to be the first in a doubleheader in Syracuse on Friday will now be played at noon Saturday at the University of Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex after Maryland's athletic department voiced concerns about the weather forecast.

"We want to apologize for the inconvenience this causes our loyal fans, including the parents of our student-athletes and women's lacrosse alumni," said Syracuse Director of Athletics John Wildhack said in a statement. "We informed our colleagues at Maryland that the local weather forecast for the next few days is not expected to impact any of the home athletic contests we have scheduled but they chose not to travel." 

In a tweet on Friday, the Syracuse men's lacrosse account cheerfully reported that it was excellent weather for a lacrosse game.

"Safety of our student-athletes is of the utmost importance at the University of Maryland," said Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans in a statement. "Due to the forecasted winter weather conditions in Upstate New York, our University Department of Transportation determined it was unsafe to travel."