Nov 30, 2016

Bowl Projections: West Virginia, Miami and Virginia Tech are Likely Contenders Heading Into Championship Week

After thirteen weeks of play and the regular season in the books for all conferences except the Big 12, here are updated projections for the 27th Russell Athletic Bowl from around the college football media.

Mark Schlabach (ESPN): Miami vs. West Virginia
Brett McMurphy (ESPN): Miami vs. West Virginia
Jerry Palm ( Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma  State
Stewart Mandel (FOX Sports): Miami vs. West Virginia
Bill Bender (Sporting News): North Carolina vs. Oklahoma State
College Football News: Louisville vs. West Virginia
Jason Kirk (SB Nation): Florida State vs. West Virginia
Brant Parsons (Orlando Sentinel): Virginia Tech vs. West Virginia

Heading into conference championship weekend and the final week of play in the Big 12, West Virginia continues to hold strong in the eyes of our media receiving six of the eight projections this week. Out of the ACC, Miami has received a late boost taking over the top spot with Virginia Tech staying in the picture.

A Hurricanes-Mountaineers meeting, as projected by ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Brett McMurphy as well as FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel, is the most common matchup this week. Miami holds a 16-3 advantage in the series including victories in the past six meetings dating back to 1998. The teams haven’t met since their Big East days with their last game coming back in 2003 when they finished No. 1 and 2 in the conference.

Virginia Tech, Louisville and Florida State were also projected to square off against West Virginia. The Hokies and Mountaineers would renew a rivalry that hasn’t seen action on the gridiron since 2005. If the prediction holds true, the game would be a lead-in to the season opener next year which also has the teams squaring off against each other. This wouldn’t be uncommon waters however, as the 2013 Russell Athletic Bowl saw Louisville and Miami meet in Orlando before opening the season against each other the very next season. Louisville won both games in that scenario.

Speaking of Louisville, the Cardinals entered the projections following a loss to Kentucky. The loss was the first at home for Lousiville this season. The upset moved them below Florida State in the latest CFP Rankings, which would likely put Florida State in the Orange Bowl barring a Clemson loss in the ACC Championship. West Virginia also holds the edge all-time against the Cardinals, 10-3. Jason Kirk of SB Nation kept Florida State in his projection this week following their win over Florida.

The other team factoring into the projections out of the Big 12 this week is No. 10 Oklahoma State who faces arch-rival No. 9 Oklahoma this weekend. Depending on what happens in Bedlam as well as what happens in the rankings ahead of the two teams, the Big 12 could still shake things up in the bowl. Both Virginia Tech and North Carolina were named as projected teams to face the Cowboys. The Hokies will be in action in Orlando this weekend to face Clemson in the ACC Championship while North Carolina will wait to see where their fate lies on Sunday.

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