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Belk Bowl Pick

Texas A&M

vs.

Wake Forest

12/29/17

Not many would’ve projected this matchup before the season, but Wake Forest surprised and Texas A&M disappointed. The Aggies couldn’t get over their early-season loss to UCLA and finished with seven wins. That's considered good for the Demon Deacons, who looked impressive late in the season. Because of that, the Deacons were early -3 point Belk Bowl favorites at 5Dimes Sportsbook.

After a couple rough seasons, Dave Clawson turned Wake Forest around the last two years, resulting in two bowl games. The Deacons sold out of their ticket allotment early with the help of the Belk Bowl being just over an hour away from campus. They’ll be plenty motivated for this one, which is the opposite of Texas A&M. Interim coach Jeff Banks will run things for the bowl game, but Jimbo Fisher got a nice, huge contract and will take over this team afterward. That’s always a tricky situation, but Fisher is mostly focused on recruiting for the future at this point.

The Aggies have been hard to peg down on both sides of the ball, but when it came down to it, the defense mostly struggled. They showed up for games against Alabama and Florida, but that was about it. Against better offenses, and even in the finale against LSU, this group struggled to do anything. That’s going to be an issue in this game because Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford turned into a new player this season, throwing 25 touchdowns and only six picks. He was vastly better than any of his previous years as seen in his 8.59 yards per attempt. Combined with running back Matt Colburn (754 yards), the Deacons averaged more than 33 points per game. Consistency may have been an issue, but their potential was highlighted in games against Louisville and Notre Dame.

The problem is that Wake’s defense is the opposite in a bad way, allowing 444 yards per game with 191 of them on the ground. A&M lacked consistency on offense, but whenever faced with a bottom-tier defense, the Aggies usually went off. Freshman Nick Starkel could be the quarterback of the future, but he still has a long way to go. Most of his huge numbers came in the win against New Mexico, while he threw four interceptions in the final two games. Against this defense, Starkel could have a huge day with top wide out Christian Kirk (730 yards, 7 TDs), but that won’t be an easy thing to bet on. The Aggies will try and ride Trayveon Williams and Keith Ford early, but that ground game hasn’t been great this season, averaging 4.0 yards per carry as a team. If those guys get going, that will only mean trouble for Wake Forest.

A&M is in transition so it’s hard to get a good read on exactly how the team will perform with a number of new coaches coming in. As for Wake, things are looking up after posting its best ACC record in Clawson’s fourth year in charge. At the least, a lot of points should be expected with neither team having much quality on that side of the ball.

The Demon Deacons are 8-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games. The Aggies are 3-8 ATS in their last 11 bowl games and 5-2 ATS in their last seven at a neutral site.

Our Pick - Wake Forest -3

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