The Belk Bowl takes place in Charlotte, North Carolina, just one hOur and 30 minutes away from South Carolina’s campus. That won’t help Virginia, which is coming off three straight losses in Conference play. The Gamecocks were -5 point favorites with an over/under of 54 a week before the Game.
Virginia (8-4 ATS) had a successful season, but it’s also important to remember that the ACC Coastal division was down as a whole. Its best wins came against teams like Miami and Duke, while it also lost in non-Conference to Indiana before falling to bowl teams in the final three ACC Games. South Carolina (7-5 ATS) didn’t have better wins, but it also had a more difficult Schedule with the worst of its five losses coming against teams like Florida and Kentucky, both of which had nine wins.
Coming out of the SEC and with more fans expected, this is a good spot for the Gamecocks with an offense that dropped 35 points on Clemson. Even without top wide out Deebo Samuel, the offense should move the ball just fine against Virginia, which allowed 4.5 yards per carry. And while the Cavs allowed only 21.8 points per Game, they were far from dominant.
That’s a bonus for South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley, who improved all of his numbers in his junior campaign, throwing 27 touchdowns with 12 interceptions on 8.46 yards per attempt. Samuel isn’t playing, but Bryan Edwards (809 yards) and Shi Smith (597 yards) are plenty capable in taking up bigger roles in the receiving Game. The question is what the rushing attack can do between a slew of backs led by Rico Dowdle (633 yards) and Mon Denson (417 yards). They combined for five 100-yard Games, yet no running back showed consistency throughout the season and USC will also be without its left guard.
The other side of the ball also has a lot of questions because South Carolina’s defense wasn’t exactly good and has some injuries, which don’t help. The Gamecocks didn’t have an easy Schedule, but they also gave up 35 points to a mediocre Florida offense. Virginia’s offense was dynamic with Bryce Perkins, though it struggled late in the season and even then only averaged 28.3 points per Game.
Perkins was still a stud throwing for 22 touchdowns and nine picks on 7.77 yards per attempt, but more importantly he was second on the team with 842 rushing yards and nine more touchdowns. Jordan Ellis was the only other player that saw relevant backfield touches, but he failed to surpass five yards per carry in the final nine Games and didn’t reach 52 rushing yards in the last three losses. Olamide Zaccheaus led the way with 81 receptions, but as a slot receiver didn’t make a ton of big plays.
The Gamecocks will get a good test in this one because they allowed 4.5 yards per carry and 194 rushing yards per contest. If Virginia can move the ball on the ground with Perkins and Ellis, that’s a definite route for a Virginia upset. But again, it’s hard to ignore how close this is to South Carolina’s campus and how poor the ACC Coastal division was.
The Gamecocks have covered in their last Four bowl Games and are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 against the ACC. The Cavaliers are 6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 5-2 ATS in their last seven non-Conference Games.
Our Pick – Virginia +6