Scott German: Insight into the Orange Bowl selection process
What a difference a day makes. Less than 24 hours removed from a humbling 62-17 loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship game, the Virginia Cavalier football team officially accepted a bid to play in the Orange Bowl on December 30th against Florida.
How sweet was it? Members of the Orange Bowl committee personally extended the invitation to UVA Athletics Director Carla Williams just a few dribbles away from the playing court at John Paul Jones Arena where the Virginia basketball team would later go on to dispatch archrival North Carolina, 56-47.
Orange Bowl Committee member Wayne Schuchts, a former quarterback for Virginia in the early 1980s, had the distinction of making the formal announcement regarding UVA’s first appearance in a major bowl since the 1991 Sugar Bowl.
Schuchts’ opening remark – “What a great personal honor to officially welcome Virginia to the Orange Bowl game against Florida.” When asked if Virginia was the committee’s top choice regardless of the outcome of the ACC Championship game, Schuchts replied, “If Virginia had beaten Clemson, then they would have been in the game, since that didn’t happen, as long as Virginia was in the Top 25, they were in the game.”
But what would the scenario had been if Virginia had fallen below the Top 25?
“If they were out of the Top 25, it would throw things into a different mix. Hopefully Virginia would have still been in, because the other teams were Virginia Tech and Wake, but that would have thrown it into a different discussion,“ added Schuchts.
Williams opened the gathering by expressing thanks. “First I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Capital One Orange Bowl. This is an amazing opportunity for our university,“ said Williams.
Williams was quick to turn the attention back to the football program. “I’m just so happy for our players. This is the result of a lot of hard work over a long time, and they’ve earned the right to appear in this bowl,” praised the Virginia AD.
The big question was the timing of the Orange Bowl invitation. Did the Cavaliers really risk playing themselves out of the bowl, or was this all but a done deal earlier in the week? Especially since UVA issued an email on Friday regarding purchasing tickets to the New Year’s Six game.
Schuchts, when specifically asked by The Augusta Free Press about a scenario had Virginia not been included in the final College Football Playoff, Top 25, replied, “A discussion would have been pursued by the CFP and the Orange Bowl, which would have said, OK, of the people outside the Top 25, who is the team most worthy of being in the game. We can objectively say if it were Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake, we were pretty confident it would be Virginia, “claimed Schuchts.
How confident? Schuchts said he got a call mid-week asking if he would go up to his alma mater? Schuchts responded saying, “Heck yeah, it would be fun.”
So there you have it, having won or lost Saturday in Charlotte, the Cavaliers were destined for South Florida. And make no mistake, they didn’t back into the bowl. Virginia led or tied for first in the Coastal Division from wire-to-wire. Despite being mauled by the Tigers (who hasn’t been mauled by Clemson lately?), Virginia was clearly the Orange Bowl committee choice since the huge win over the Hokies to conclude the regular season.
Virginia has a dynamic playmaking quarterback in Bryce Perkins, whom you seemingly can’t drag of the field, a head coach in Bronco Mendenhall who has led a team to postseason play in 14 of his 15 years as a head coach, and a fan base that should be as hungry for a New Year’s bowl game appearance as the Tigers were Saturday evening.
Column by Scott German