Virginia Cavaliers (8-4 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. No. 25 Auburn Tigers (7-5 SU, 4-8 ATS), Saturday December, 31st 2011. 7:30PM EST, Chick-fil-A Bowl
Georgia Dome Atlanta, Ga.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Virg +1.5/Aub -1.5
Over/Under Total: 48.5
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The last bowl game of the 2011 calendar season should be a dandy when the Virginia Cavaliers meet the no. 25 Auburn Tigers in the Chick-fil-A Bowl inside the Georgia Dome on the evening of New Year’s Eve. Over the last few years the Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly the Peach Bowl, has come a long way in terms of popularity amongst non BCS Bowl Games. Since 1992 the Chick-fil-A Bowl has featured intriguing matchups from representatives from both the ACC and SEC rivaled conferences. The ACC holds a slim 10-9 SU mark over that stretch, but the defending National Champions by way of the Auburn Tigers hope to even that score when they battle the Virginia Cavaliers for a little postseason square dance.
Of course the Tigers are a much different team than they were a year ago as they sport a 7-5 SU record on the year. Auburn lost seemingly every starter from their 2010 team and had troubles at the quarterback position all season with Barrett Trotter. QB Clint Moseley took over the starting role towards the end of the year but he was not overly impressive completing just 62% passing for 794 yards with 5 scores and 3 picks. The lack of passing efficiency has been an issue for the Auburn offense all season and they have had to rely heavily on their rushing attack to move the football.
Running back Michael Dyer has been absolutely sensational for the Auburn offense this year rushing for 1,242 yards and 10 touchdowns. Dyer has carried the ball 242 times this season which is second only to Alabama’s Trent Richardson in terms of touches. Still, Dyer has averaged over 5 yards per carry and remained a difference maker despite the fact that teams have focuses primarily on stopping the run. Also, backup tailback Onterio McCalebb has provided some sparks in the secondary role running the football as well. McCalebb has posted over 500 yards on just 102 carries and he can carry the load as well. Due to the continuing passing struggles, expect both of these guys to be the main weapons for the Auburn offense against the Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers closed out the year with a respectable 8-4 record despite some bitterness from their season ending blowout loss to Virginia Tech 38-0. Virginia could have punched their ticket to the ACC Championship with a win over the Hokies but simply got destroyed in their efforts. Still, the 8-4 campaign earned the Cavaliers their first bowl appearance since the 2007 season and they will attempt to grab their first postseason victory since the 2005 Music City Bowl.
The Cavaliers have not necessarily put up huge offensive numbers either this season. In fact, their numbers on offense are very similar to Auburn’s offensive numbers on paper. The Cavaliers have posted 396 total yards (50th in NCAA) and just 23 points (88th in NCAA) per game. In similar fashion to Auburn again, Virginia has a young quarterback in Michael Rocco who has struggled this year as well. Rocco has completed 60.3% passing for 2,359 yards with 11 touchdowns and 11 picks.
However, Rocco has also had some strong outings especially towards the end of the year during the Cavaliers 4 game winning streak prior to the Virginia Tech game. WR Kris Burd is a key piece to the passing success and is usually the go to guy for Rocco. Therefore, keep an eye on the Virginia passing offense and how well Rocco performs because that is usually a direct correlation to the Cavaliers outcome. Consider the fact that Virginia has lost every game this season (3 different occasions) when Rocco has thrown multiple interceptions and it is easy to see how much of a difference Rocco can make for the Virginia offense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This should be a pretty good game as both teams have a lot of similarities. However, I still think Auburn has the edge on both offense and defense. Therefore, expect the Tigers to pull away late as they will simply be too much for the Cavaliers. Take Auburn -1.5
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