U.Va., Virginia Tech land in ideal bowls

Virginia and Virginia Tech couldn’t have asked for any more from the ACC and its bowl partners Sunday. The Cavaliers and Hokies landed in ideal destinations against compelling opponents.

Reasonable fans couldn’t have asked any more from the College Football Playoff selection committee. The 13-member panel chose the playoff semifinalists deliberately and well, especially rewarding Alabama instead of Ohio State with the fourth and final spot.

Postseason-eligible for the first time since 2011, Virginia (6-6) is headed to the Dec. 28 Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., versus homestanding Navy. The venue is an easy drive for legions of Cavaliers faithful — Virginia Tech partisans flocked there for the Hokies’ 2014 Military Bowl victory over Cincinnati — and offers a challenging foe.

This is the 14th bowl in the last 15 years for Navy (6-5 entering Saturday’s annual and unrivaled clash with Army). U.Va. administrators took a long look at Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo before hiring Brigham Young’s Bronco Mendenhall two years ago, and with good reason — Niumatalolo’s Navy teams are 83-47.

The Midshipmen run an option offense, which Niumatalolo continued after taking over for Paul Johnson when Johnson went to Georgia Tech. Navy ranks second to Army among Bowl Subdivision teams in rushing at 347.5 yards per game.

Then there is the tie that binds. Hoping to reverse decades of football failure, Virginia hired Navy coach George Welsh following the 1981 season. An accomplished quarterback at the Academy, Welsh elevated the Cavaliers to unforeseen heights that included six top-25 seasons — he is enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Virginia and Navy have have met 38 times, first in 1889. To answer the obvious question: I was not there.

On the same day that Virginia faces Navy, Virginia Tech (9-3) plays Oklahoma State (9-3) in Orlando’s Camping World Bowl. Many Hokies fans know Mickey’s town well, traveling there last season for the ACC championship game and in 2012 for what was then called the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Tech conquered Rutgers 13-10 in overtime in that game five years ago, and neither team mustered 200 yards of offense. Expect more points this time – perhaps by first quarter’s end.

Ranked 19th by the playoff committee, the Cowboys are third nationally in scoring at 46.3 points per game, and their quarterback, Mason Rudolph, leads the FBS with 379.4 yards passing per game. The Hokies recruited Rudolph when he played high school ball in Rock Hill, S.C.

The only team to pass for more than 250 yards against Virginia Tech this season is West Virginia (371), a Big 12 rival of Oklahoma State’s. The Hokies defeated the Mountaineers 31-24 in the season-opener.

Ranked 22nd by the selection committee and bowling for a 25th consecutive year, Tech is fifth nationally in scoring defense at 13.5 points per game and first in opponents’ completion percentage at 46.9.

Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster scheming against Cowboys coach Mike Gundy? Sign me up and pass the popcorn.

Bowl clarity for Tech and Virginia began to emerge at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, when the playoff selection committee unveiled its top six teams. As expected, Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia were seeded 1-3, with Alabama prevailing over Ohio State for the final semifinal spot.

Bama. Buckeyes. Nick Saban’s five national championships. Urban Meyer’s three.

There couldn’t have been a more fascinating choice.

The committee got it right, the Buckeyes’ Big Ten championship and top-10 victories over Wisconsin and Penn State notwithstanding. The Crimson Tide (11-1) has no top-10 wins — its best are over No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Mississippi State — but Ohio State (11-2) fell not only at home to No. 2 Oklahoma but also at unranked Iowa.

By 31 points! Alabama lost only at Auburn, by 12.

Losing by 31 should have consequences, and for the Buckeyes it did.

The Crimson Tide’s inclusion makes the Southeastern Conference the first league with two playoff representatives in the same season — SEC champ Georgia was an easy choice.

The Big Ten’s exclusion means that the only conferences represented in each of the four College Football Playoffs are the ACC and SEC.

Also important in the playoff’s early reveal Sunday was Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin at No. 6. When it’s not a CFP semifinal, the Orange Bowl is contracted to pit an ACC team versus the highest-ranked available opponent from among Notre Dame and the non-champions of the Big Ten and SEC.

That locked the Badgers into the Orange Bowl against ACC runner-up Miami, and when the Big Ten is the ACC’s Orange Bowl foe, the ACC inherits the Big Ten’s normal slot in the Citrus Bowl — I know, it’s confusing.

With Notre Dame not ranked high enough to earn a New Year’s Six bowl, it became part of the ACC’s postseason pool, and the Fighting Irish’s national brand made them an easy selection for the Citrus, leaving Virginia Tech to the Camping World.

Virginia Tech-Oklahoma State joins Clemson-Alabama (Sugar) and Miami-Wisconsin as bowl matchups pitting a top-25 ACC squad versus a ranked opponent.

Good company in which to be.

Teel can be reached by phone at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

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