- Virginia played better than expected this year, but it’s hard to imagine the Cavaliers shutting down an explosive Gamecocks offense in the Belk Bowl.
Belk Bowl – South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Virginia Cavaliers (+4.0)
Sat., December 29, 12:00 pm ET
Three things to know before betting on South Carolina-Virginia:
1. Under current head coach Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks are 2-0 straight up and 1-1 against the spread in bowl games. Last year’s 26-19 win over Michigan was especially impressive and, while the team took a step back this year, the Gamecocks showed that they can play at a very high level. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers got blown out by Navy in the Eagle Bank Bowl last year. Virginia was a 2.5-point underdog in that game but ended up losing 49-7. Also concerning for the Cavaliers is the fact that they are 10-15 against the spread after the first month of the season under current head coach Bronco Mendenhall. That suggests that Virginia struggles once the team is done beating up on a cupcake early-season schedule. The Gamecocks are 4-2 against the spread when playing teams with winning records this season, while Virginia is 0-3 ATS against the spread the season when facing teams that throw for at least 250 yards per game on the year.
2. The fact that Virginia struggled to cover against teams that throw the ball well this year is troublesome considering there aren’t many great quarterbacks in the ACC. The best passers the Cavaliers faced all season were NC State’s Ryan Finley and Duke’s Daniel Jones. South Carolina's Jake Bentley represents a big step up. Despite facing some very good SEC defenses, Bentley threw for 2,953 yards with 27 touchdowns and only 12 picks this season. The junior arguably played his best game of the year against Clemson, when he threw for 510 yards with five touchdowns and only one pick. With the electric Deebo Samuel—who had 62 catches for 882 yards and 11 scores this season—running routes for him, Bentley could light up Virginia in this game. The Gamecocks also have quite a few backs that will be able to pound away for some extra yardage.
3. Running back Jordan Ellis put up some solid numbers for Virginia this year. The senior rushed for 920 yards with nine touchdowns. The problem is that Ellis had only three 100-yard games this season, and all of those came against teams that aren’t in the Power 5. In games against Richmond, Ohio and Liberty, Ellis racked up 423 yards and six touchdowns. That means that he rushed for only 497 yards and three touchdowns when facing his toughest competition. While South Carolina’s rushing defense wasn’t exactly stellar this year, the team has SEC athletes and will have plenty of time to prepare for whatever wrinkles Virginia throws its way. If Ellis can’t get anything going on the ground, it’s hard to imagine quarterback Bryce Perkins having a great game for the Cavaliers. Perkins is an impressive dual-threat player, but he is not capable of carrying Virginia to a win here.
Pick: South Carolina -4.0
Confidence level: Moderate (On a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)