South Carolina vs. Virginia Belk Bowl Betting Pick
South Carolina Gamecocks (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Virginia Cavaliers (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Belk Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Saturday December 29th, 2018. 12:00PM (EST)
Where: Bank of America Stadium Charlotte, N.C.
Point Spread:SC -4/UVA +4
Over/Under Total: 54.5
The South Carolina Gamecocks will meet the Virginia Cavaliers in the 2018 Belk Bowl on December 29th in the Queen City at Bank of America Stadium. Both the Gamecocks and Cavaliers finished at 7-5 SU on the season including profitable ATS records (South Carolina 7-5 ATS/Virginia 8-4 ATS). The Cavaliers limped to a 7-5 finish after dropping each of their last two games against Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks gave Clemson a scare in their rivalry game at season’s end and then followed that performance up with a win over Akron in a make-up game. Now both teams look to close out the season with some momentum in the heart of both teams’ recruiting grounds in the state of North Carolina. The Gamecocks are currently listed as slight 4 point favorites but carry a disappointing mark of 3-6-1 ATS in their last 10 games as favorites dating back to the 2017 season.
Gamecocks WR Deebo Samuel sitting out for Belk Bowl
Despite South Carolina’s roller coaster ride on offense this season and the inconsistent play of quarterback Jake Bentley, the Gamecocks biggest asset on the offensive side of the football has been WR Deebo Samuel. The Gamecocks star receiver closed out the season on a hot streak including a 210 yard and 3 touchdown performance against Clemson in the Palmetto Bowl. Now South Carolina will have to replace their biggest asset as Samuel has elected to forego the Belk Bowl as he prepares for the upcoming NFL Draft. We have seen a few players take this route in recent years and Samuel’s decision is not that surprising considering he suffered a serious injury last season. Still the loss of hurts the offense and the return game where Samuel was electrifying. South Carolina will likely lean on the help of WR Bryan Edwards as the new focal point in the passing game.
Virginia seeks 1st Bowl win since 2005
The Cavaliers are actually having their best season in nearly a decade and could cap things off with their first postseason victory since 2005 with a victory over the Gamecocks. The progress under 3rd year Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall is undeniable as he has taken the Cavaliers from a mere two win program in 2016 and increased that total each year since. Mendenhall previously had great success at BYU and led the Cougars to 6 different bowl victories. Mendenhall’s reputation for building strong defensive teams has been the recipe to the success at both BYU and now Virginia. The Cavaliers allowed just 21 points per game and 337 total yards of offense to rank among the top 30 teams in each category. When the Cavaliers meet the Gamecocks in Charlotte, they will need another big defensive performance against a South Carolina if they are going to end their 13-year postseason drought.
Gamecocks vs. Cavaliers Match-Ups
Virginia’s offense has not boasted eye-popping numbers this season, but they have been very solid averaging just less than 30 points per game. The Cavaliers are not flashy, but they are efficient especially in the running game with quarterback Bryce Perkins and running back Jordan Ellis who have combined for more than 1,700 yards and 9 touchdowns a piece. The Cavaliers also have a playmaker on the outside in senior WR Olamide Zaccheaus who has corralled 81 passes for 958 yards with 6 touchdowns. If there is one thing that the Gamecocks defense has struggled with this season, it is defending the run where they have allowed nearly 200 yards per game. As a Gamecock fan, I will also add that we have particularly struggled against mobile quarterbacks which presents a big red flag for this match-up with the Virginia offense.
Despite the concerns for the defense, the Gamecocks offense has been stout this year and will likely need to be in order to pull out this victory. As mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers have a strong defense, and they have been very stout against the pass. Due to the Gamecocks injuries throughout the season at running back and lack of ground success, this effort will rely on the arm of QB Jake Bentley (63.9 %, 2,953 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs). With Samuel out, things will be more difficult. WR Bryan Edwards is capable but will there be enough weapons for Bentley in this game? WR Shi Smith will have an increased role. Still, behind Smith, there are no proven consistent threats in the passing game. Considering Virginia’s defense, the lack of Gamecock playmakers, and Bentley’s tendency to turn the ball over, this is not in any way an ideal match-up for the South Carolina offense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I am a Gamecocks fan and will be at this game. However, I must say the match-up is not good. As a betting man, I have to put aside the heart and wager on the best play. Take Virginia +4