On Saturday, Dec. 29 at 12 pm ET, the Belk Bowl kicks off as the Virginia Cavaliers (7-5, 3rd ACC – Coastal) meet the South Carolina Gamecocks (7-5, 4th SEC – East). This game is one of three being played on Saturday prior to the CFP Semifinals. The two other bowl games are the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl (12 pm ET) and the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl (1:15 pm ET). Our 2018 Belk Bowl free pick has South Carolina anywhere from -4.0 to -5.0. The over/under is at 54.0. Here’s our Belk Bowl free pick and analysis.
South Carolina – Analysis
Our 2018 Belk Bowl free pick observes that the Gamecocks have a productive offense that utilizes a good balance between the pass and the rush. South Carolina averaged 32.6 PPG. The team rushed for an average of 162.8 YPG and passed for 277.4 YPG. Junior QB Jake Bentley (63.9 COMP%, 27 TDs, 12 INTs), who threw for close to 3,000 yards, has three receivers who each have a minimum of 39 receptions. Unfortunately, SC’s top receiver Deebo Samuel, a senior who leads the team with 62 receptions, 882 receiving yards, and 11 TD catches, will not play as he’s decided to wait for the NFL Draft. Junior wideout Bryan Edwards (52 REC, 809 YDs, 7 TDs) should see a lot of passes in this game. The ground game will look to RB Rico Dowdle (117 ATT, 633 YDs, 5.4 YPA, 4 TDs) to lead the way.
South Carolina allowed opponents on average 27.2 PPG. Teams rushed for a hefty 194.5 YPG. They passed for 230.8 YPG. This defense is less than impressive with 21 sacks, six interceptions, and eight FF. The Gamecocks did notch over 75 TFL and defended 47 passes. They could have a tough time containing the Virginia air game.
Virginia – Analysis
The Cavaliers were good for 28.5 PPG. They rushed for 170.6 YPG. Virginia passed for 211.9 YPG. Junior QB Bryce Perkins (63.8 COMP%, 22 TDs, 9 INTs) is a competent passer and dangerous runner. Perkins leads the team in rushes, with 197, and has 842 yards in rushing and nine scores. Senior RB Jordan Ellis (189 ATT, 4.2 YPA, 9 TDs), who compiled 920 yards on the ground, could be a major factor in this game. WR Olamide Zaccheaus (81 REC, 11.8 YPC, 8 TDs) is Perkins’ favorite target. There are three pass catchers who have together caught 18 TD passes.
Virginia gave up 21.8 PPG. They kept opponents to 180.1 YPG in the air. The defense allowed 157.1 YPG on the ground. Our 2018 Belk Bowl free pick does like this passing D, which grabbed 15 pikes and defended 58 passes. Senior safety Juan Thornhill had five of those picks, six PD, and 3.5 TFL. Star corner Bryce Hall, a junior, defended 20 passes and make two interceptions. He also forced two fumbles. Chris Peace is one of top front men, making six sacks and 9.5 TFL.
Five Keys to the Game
- SC’s Deebo Samuel not playing
- UVA QB Perkins versatile and dangerous
- Cavs’ D is deeper and tougher than Gamecocks’
- SC’s pass defense can be exploited
- Cavalier offense is deep.
Our 2018 Belk Bowl Pick
Our 2018 Belk Bowl free pick notes that the spread on this game has the Gamecocks at -4.0. We like the Cavaliers in this game, and we really like them at +4.0. We are also taking the over at 54.0. We do believe there will be a good 58 to 65 points scored in this game.
For more bowl picks, please see our complete schedule of 2018 games. Note, the first semifinal game to determine who goes to the championship game will be at 4:00 pm ET, as #3 Notre Dame meets #2 Clemson. The second game, which offers #4 Oklahoma playing #1 Alabama, kicks off at 8:00 pm ET.