Bowl season: Penn State, UVA get New Year's Six, the Hokies bowl shuffle and Navy's tough draw

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Bowl season: Penn State, UVA get New Year's Six, the Hokies bowl shuffle and Navy's tough draw

The regular season is over, the conference championships decided and the playoff bracket is set. Yes, it's bowl season. Bowl bids were handed out on Sunday and Penn State, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Navy all found out their postseason fates.

Here's where each team is headed this bowl season:

Penn State vs. Memphis, Cotton Bowl Classic on Saturday, Dec. 28

Ohio State is headed to the College Football Playoff and the Big Ten's Rose Bowl bid is going to Wisconsin. Penn State, however, managed to squeak into the New Year's Six as the No. 10 team in the nation. They will take on Group of 5 representative Memphis who won the AAC.

Virginia vs. Florida, Orange Bowl on Monday, Dec. 30

The Cavaliers are headed to the Orange Bowl for the first time in school history. More on this game here.

Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky, Belk Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31

The Belk Bowl always seemed like the likely destination for Virginia Tech, but their opponent was a bit of a mystery. If you were following along on Twitter before things were made official, the Hokies were supposed to play Mississippi State, then it was Tennessee, then Kentucky, then Tennesse again and then back to Kentucky.

Now it's official and we know for sure it will be Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky.

The issue was reportedly Tennessee changing its bowl preference at the last minute.

Navy vs. Kansas State, Liberty Bowl on Tuesday, Dec. 31

Kansas State is the only team in the nation with a win over a College Football Playoff team. They defeated Oklahoma 48-41 in October.

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo had the quote of the day about his team's matchup.


What does Virginia's win over Virginia Tech really mean?

What does Virginia's win over Virginia Tech really mean?

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- It is easy to get swept up in the emotion of a big victory. Coaches and players on the winning side always add extra weight and meaning to a game after they have won while the losing team always tries to downplay the significance. On Friday in Charlottesville when Virginia defeated Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003, with fans storming the field and the raw emotion of the players and coaches as the backdrop, that win certainly felt like more than just one regular-season rivalry game.

That was the message the Cavaliers pushed afterward.

"It feels like a burden taken off of us," defensive end Mandy Alonso said. "It’s amazing for this program and for Coach [Bronco] Mendenhall to come in and change the whole program. To be a part of this is just a grateful feeling.”

"The stage was not too big for them," Mendenhall said. "The moment was not too big for them. What was at stake was not too big for them. They believed that they were capable and prepared to perform in this setting and they did. "

Clearly this was a big win for Virginia, but could it actually signal a passing of the torch to the Cavaliers as the top college football program in the Commonwealth?

To anyone sporting maroon and orange, that is a ridiculous notion. Bryce Perkins is what makes the Cavaliers' offense go and he was able to torch the Hokies for 475 total yards, but he is a senior and will be moving on. Yes, UVA got the win, but that ended a streak of 15 straight wins for the Hokies. One win does not suddenly erase a decade and a half of dominance.

They had to win sometime, right?

Not surprisingly, the message from Virginia Tech’s locker room was very different from their counterparts as the Hokies described it as just one game that the team would put behind them.

"It was a tough loss, but we just need to move on," wide receiver Tayvion Robinson said.

"I told them we can take this event and go one of two ways," head coach Justin Fuente said. "It can draw us closer together, fuel our fire. We have one more opportunity to play football together with this group. One more chance to play better against whoever we play. That needs to be our focus.”

But the last 15 years of the rivalry is not the only context that mattered on Saturday and the Commonwealth Cup wasn’t the only trophy on the line. Saturday’s game was for the ACC Coastal Division crown as well. It is also year four for both Bronco Mendenhall at Virginia and Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech when a head coach is supposed to be hitting his stride at a school with his system firmly in place and the roster full of his own recruits.

At the very least, it does seem like Virginia and Virginia Tech are two teams headed in opposite directions.

The Cavaliers won the division on Friday for the first time ever. UVA's win total has risen each year during Mendenhall’s tenure going from two to six to eight to now nine and that’s before the ACC Championship and the bowl game. This will be the team’s third consecutive season making a bowl, the longest streak enjoyed in Charlottesville since 2002-05.

“It’s an essential step," Mendenhall said of the team's first division crown. "You can’t build a consistent conference or national contender unless you own your state. You have to win your division before you can win the conference championship. Those have to happen to have a quality football program."

Under Fuente, Virginia Tech won 10 games and the Coastal Division in his first year as head coach in 2016. The Hokies won nine games in 2017 and just six in 2018, suffering the team’s first losing season since 1992. It took an emergency schedule addition of Marshall in the final week of the season just to earn that sixth win and keep the team's coveted bowl streak alive.

Yes, 2019’s season with eight wins shows a bit of a bounceback from 2018, but legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster is on his way out and the overall trajectory of the program over Fuente’s four years seems to be trending down.

What’s more, Virginia is even out-recruiting Virginia Tech as both Rivals and 247 Sports currently rank Mendenhall’s 2020 class ahead of Fuente’s. Granted, recruiting classes can change dramatically on signing day, but this is a sign that, at least to recruits, state supremacy appears to be up for grabs.

At the very least, Friday's game showed two things.

First, it showed the level of confidence Mendenhall has injected into a program that had very little reason to feel that way over the past 20 years.

"We expected to win and we expected to be in the ACC championship," wide receiver Hasise Dubois said.

"All year long, all spring, all camp, since that bowl game we’ve been working as a team to be exactly here," Perkins said. "We talked about it all year, ACC champs, beat Tech and everything that we’ve done all year in practice and in games had led us to this moment."

Second, Virginia's win fanned the flames of a rivalry that has felt largely dormant through Virginia Tech's run.

"I respect their program and I respect them as a rival," Mendenhall said. "The quality of their program has helped us improve our program. They’ve set a standard that has been helpful for us to measure against and to grow against in the short time I’ve been here."

"Our kids will remember this I think," Foster said. "I talked to them about a rivalry. A rivalry is when two teams win and now this team won. So yeah, we will need to kick this thing back up again when it is all said and done.”

It has been four years since the Commonwealth Cup shifted from Frank Beamer vs. Mike London to Fuente vs. Mendenhall. Fuente has thus far won three out of four of those games, but with his win coming in the pivotal fourth year for each coach at their respective program, it is not a stretch to believe that Mendenhall’s lone win may be the most important of the four.

Said Mendenhall, "Today was as close as I've seen to what is possible at Scott Stadium."


Week 14: The streak is finally over

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Week 14: The streak is finally over

Virginia defeated in-state rival Virginia Tech for the first time since 2003 to win the ACC Coastal, Navy earned second place in their division, Penn State cruised to a sleepy victory and Maryland's season was brought to a merciful close.

Here's a recap of Week 14's local college football action.

Virginia 39, Virginia Tech 30

The good

Whether you are a Cavaliers or Hokies fan, this was a great game. Both offenses were able to move the ball well, and both defenses came up with big plays. There were three lead changes and three ties over the course of the game. Bronco Mendenhall said it best afterward when he declared the game "back and forth all the way to the very end as an in-state rivalry division championship game should be."

The bad

The difference in this game was the turnovers as Virginia won the turnover margin 4-1. One of those turnovers was an interception on a jump ball thrown by Hokies quarterback Hendon Hooker at the end of the first half, but the two second half turnovers were crucial. Hooker threw an interception on a third-and-19 in the fourth quarter from Virginia Tech's 47. The Hokies probably would not have converted, but a punt would have pinned Virginia deep. Instead, the Cavaliers got the ball at their 35 and drove for the game-winning field goal. On the next drive, Hooker fumbled the ball in the end zone off a third consecutive sack that was recovered by the Cavaliers for the touchdown.

The crazy

Bryce Perkins is Virginia's biggest playmaker. He threw for 311 yards, rushed for 164 and scored three total touchdowns. You would never know he was in the hospital overnight on Monday because of a severe case of tonsillitis.

You can read the full story here.

Penn State 27, Rutgers 6

The good

Will Levis played in place of injured quarterback Sean Clifford. While the passing attack wasn't much to look at (8 of 14 completions, 81 yards) Levis did most of his damage on the ground with 108 yards on 17 carries. Journey Brown added another 103 yards on 16 carries with three rushing touchdowns.

The bad

Penn State was outgained 383-333 by easily the worst team in the Big Ten and one of the worst in the nation. This was a close game with a 13-6 score at the end of three quarters. 

The crazy

Could this game cost Penn State? No, the Nittany Lions are not in the running for the College Football Playoff and the Big Ten East division was already wrapped up by Ohio State. But if the Buckeyes make the playoff -- and they will if they beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship -- the Big Ten's representative for the Rose Bowl is still up for grabs and will go to the highest-ranked team remaining. Will a lackluster game against a horrible Rutgers team end up dinging Nittany Lions in the rankings?

Wisconsin will likely move ahead of Penn State after blowing out Minnesota this week, but if the Badgers lose to Ohio State they will have three losses on the season. Penn State should have the edge in the Rose Bowl race, but it depends on how far Wisconsin rises this week and where Penn State falls, if at all. You'd hate to think the Nittany Lions just slept-walked their way out of the Rose Bowl.

Michigan State 19, Maryland 16

The good

Anthony McFarland had only eight carries, but he made the most of them with 134 yards including one 63-yard touchdown scamper.

The bad

Offense has been a struggle for Michigan State this season, but it wasn't on Saturday. Quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for a season-high 342 yards against the Terps. The Spartans' 430 total yards is the third-most they have managed against a Big Ten team this season.

The crazy

When Maryland started the season 2-0, not many would have thought that win over Syracuse in Week 2 was going to be the highlight of the season. The Terps would only win one of their final nine games.

The offense was clicking to start with 142 points in the first two wins. They would score only 161 points total in the next 10 games.

Navy 56, Houston 41

The good

Typically, the offense has been led by Malcolm Perry. He had another good game with 253 total yards, and he set a school record with his ninth 100-yard rushing game and tied another school record with his eighth consecutive 100-yard rushing game. The real story, however, was Jamale Carothers, who rushed for a career-high 188 yards and five (!!!) touchdowns.

Navy also got a big game from its defense who, despite giving up 41 points, forced five turnovers. The Midshipmen would turn those five turnovers into 21 points.

The bad

Despite the win, Navy's Cotton Bowl hopes were already dashed coming in. Memphis' win on Saturday locked up the AAC West Division for the Tigers. Instead of preparing to play Cincinnati next week in the conference championship, Navy will now look ahead to its final game of the season against Army.

The crazy

Perry threw for 107 yards. Guess how many passes he completed to get there? Two. Keoni-Kordell Makekau caught one pass for 60 yards and Carothers caught the second for 47.