This season’s Chick-fil-A Bowl features Virginia, of the ACC, and last year’s national champions, Auburn, of the SEC.
These two schools have played twice before, in 1997 and 1998, splitting the two meetings. Auburn won 28-17 at Virginia in 1997, but the Cavaliers returned the favor in 1998 with a 19-0 win at Auburn.
The latest Chick-fil-A Bowl odds list the spread at Auburn -1 and the total (over/under) at 49 points.
The Cavaliers were ending their season on a positive note with a four-game win streak, but the momentum was stopped in its tracks with a 38-0 loss to Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale to finish second in the ACC Coastal Division (5-3). Virginia was a strong 4-1 away from home this year with wins at Miami and Florida State as part of a current three-game road win streak.
Defensively, Virginia ranks a respectable 32nd nationally in scoring defense (22 points per game) and surrenders 343 yards per game (215 passing, 128 rushing) while recording 19 sacks and forcing 21 turnovers one of which was returned for a touchdown (Chase Minnifield, interception).
Steve Greer leads the defensive unit with 103 tackles (22 more than anyone else), adding two sacks and one fumble recovery, while Matt Conrath has three blocked kicks and two forced fumbles to go with two sacks and 64 tackles. Rodney McLeod has four interceptions with 55 tackles and Cam Johnson has four sacks with two forced fumbles.
On offense, the Cavaliers rank just 88th nationally in points scored (23 ppg) while compiling 397 yards per game (232 passing, 165 rushing). Michael Rocco has completed 60 percent of his passes for 2,359 yards and 11 TDs with 11 interceptions. The offensive line has allowed 15 sacks.
Perry Jones and Kevin Parks anchor the running game by combining for 1,544 yards and 13 touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry. Kris Burd paces the receiving corps with 60 receptions for 810 yards and one TD, while Jones has 41 grabs for 416 yards and three scores.
The 2010 national champion started its title defense with a 4-1 start, but it has alternated wins and losses the last seven games, and is coming of a 42-14 Iron Bowl loss to Alabama to finish fourth in the SEC West (4-4). Auburn is 1-4 away from home this year, losing the last three games.
Auburn ranks 80th nationally in points allowed (29 ppg) and allows 406 yards per game (211 passing, 195 rushing) while recording 21 sacks and forcing 21 turnovers with three returned for TDs (Demetruce McNeal and Jermaine Whitehead, interceptions; Kenneth Carter, fumble).
Daren Bates leads the defense with 96 tackles, while Neiko Thorpe has 94 stops to go with a team-high three interceptions. Corey Lemonier has team-highs of 9.5 sacks and five forced fumbles, while Eltoro Freeman has two fumble recoveries and a pair of forced fumbles.
On offense, the Tigers rank 82nd nationally in points scored (24 ppg) while compiling 328 yards per game (175 rushing, 153 passing). Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb anchor the running game with 1,774 yards and 14 touchdowns on 5.1 yards per carry.
Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley have combined to complete 58 percent of their passes for 1,803 yards and 15 TDs with nine interceptions. The offensive line has allowed 31 sacks. McCalebb and Emory Blake are the top pass-catchers with 60 combined receptions for 796 yards and six scores.
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Chick-fil-A Bowl Free Pick: Under 49
Auburn’s offense will be slowed by the loss of Michael Dyer in this one. Virginia’s offense isn’t very good to start with, but the defense has been great in big games this year. I like the under here.
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