Gamecocks Are Top Of The Pecking Order In Belk Bowl Against Virginia

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 3:12 AM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018 3:12 AM UTC

Get the latest college football picks on the Belk Bowl between Virginia and South Carolina. The game from Charlottesville, VA. is on Saturday, December 29 at noon ET on ABC. Bet confidently with tips from SBRpicks.com.

Belk Bowl: Virginia (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs South Carolina (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)Saturday, Dec. 29, noon ET (ABC)Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VAFree NCAAF Pick: Gamecocks ATSBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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In bowl games under Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks took ranked South Florida to overtime as 10-point underdogs in 2016. Last year, they upset Michigan as eight-point underdogs. Virginia, in its only bowl game under Bronco Mendenhall, got blown out by Navy 49-7. Virginia is in a bad spot after choking against rival Virginia Tech in a way that still stings. Bowl teams off an overtime loss are 5-13 ATS in the past 10 seasons. The Cavs also tend to fizzle out. In 2016, they were 0-4 ATS in their last four games. Last year, they were 1-3 ATS in their last four. This year, they’ve failed to cover three of their past four.

How They Got Here

The 'Hoos’ top win came at home against Miami and their worst defeat was at V Tech. They lost their last three ACC games, which kept them from keeping pace with Pittsburgh in the ACC Coastal Division. South Carolina didn’t pull off any big upsets, but didn’t suffer any bad losses, either. It finished the season by covering four of its last five.

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Why Virginia Can Win/Cover

The Cavs rank 18th in third down conversion percentage and can sustain drives in order to keep the Cocks’ offense off the field. UVA can attack a defense with running back Jordan Ellis, who averages 4.9 YPC, or with Bryce Perkins either scrambling or passing. SC’s beleaguered defense has relied on many backups thanks to injuries suffered by a starting defensive end, a starting linebacker and his backup, both starting cornerbacks, and both starting safeties. Injuries help explain why the Cocks rank 87th in opposing YPC. UVA is 8-2 ATS when running for at least 130 yards.

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Why South Carolina Can Win/Cover

UVA’s defense also is beleaguered. It has suffered intense attrition along the defensive line and misses linebacker Malcolm Cook. UVA’s defense has fizzled out, allowing over 200 rush yards in each of its last four games, covering only against Georgia Tech. South Carolina’s strength on offense is not its running game, but it can still thrive against UVA. Rico Dowdle leads SC with 5.4 YPC. He ran for 140 yards on 10 YPC against a Tennessee run defense that ranks 20 spots higher than UVA's and for 112 yards on 5.6 YPC against a Vandy defense that ranks 20 spots below UVA’s.

Common Opponents/Series History

Both faced a top-10 rushing offense. Virginia lost 23-13 to Pitt, surrendering 229 rushing yards to Darrin Hall, including a 75-yard touchdown. Georgia was way too physical for South Carolina and ran for 271 rush yards against it en route to a 41-17 win.

The Verdict

South Carolina is enjoying a 4-1 ATS run even though it allowed 44 points to Ole Miss, 35 to Florida, and 56 to Clemson. Ole Miss has elite receivers, Clemson has numerous five-star receivers and a great quarterback, and Florida has two NFL-caliber running backs. But the Cocks could still cover because of their prolific offense. They are 7-0 ATS when passing for at least 230 yards. They will miss speedster Deebo Samuel, but Bryan Edwards has almost as many receptions and yards. He achieves big plays with his size and range. Shi Smith is the speedster with 4.40 breakaway ability. Quarterback Jake Bentley has a great deep ball, achieving 16 touchdowns to four interceptions in his last five games.

UVA’s pass defense is highly-ranked, but undeservingly. It faced one good pass attack in NC State’s with NFL-caliber receivers and quarterback and Ryan Finley went 22-for-32, 257 yards, and three touchdowns in a 35-21 win. Virginia’s receivers are nothing like Ole Miss’s, their running backs nothing like Florida's. Jordan Ellis has exceeded 70 rushing yards just once since October. Virginia boasts one explosive receiver in the 5-foot-8 Olamide Zaccheaus, but doesn’t have anyone who can hit him deep. Perkins’ lack of a deep ball helps explain why UVA ranks 93rd in offensive explosiveness, 69 spots below South Carolina. The return of linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams will help shore up the Cocks’ tackling and talented youngsters like Jaylin Dickerson are stepping up in SC’s secondary.

In the regular season, South Carolina would cover by outpacing Virginia. Perkins is an efficient thrower and dangerous scrambler, but South Carolina will move down the field way more easily because it can generate chunk plays. For all of its defensive troubles, South Carolina ranks 10th in IsoPPP+, 57 spots ahead of UVA, meaning it excels at limiting an offense’s explosiveness. Recent bowl history only makes South Carolina look even more promising.

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