Two teams that both had nice seasons based on preseason expectations square off in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. An undefeated Auburn team won the National Championship last season, but many forecasted gloom and doom this season with much of that team now in the NFL. Instead, the Tigers finished with a winning 7-5 record and they went a commendable 4-4 in SEC play while facing a brutal South Division schedule.
Virginia was an even bigger surprise, as the Cavaliers were expected to be doormats in a weak ACC but instead finished at 8-4 thanks to a four-game winnings streak before getting shut out by Virginia Tech in the season finale.
Auburn is a small (-3) favorite here with a total of 48.
1. Why Auburn will cover the spread: Auburn will cover this spread if it can run the ball effectively without its leading rusher Michael Dyer, who has been suspended for this contest. We think that the Tigers will be able to do so, as Onterio McCalebb looks like a suitable fill-in after rushing for 532 yards on a sparkling 5.2 yards per carry in his own right, and let’s face it, Auburn is not facing an SEC run defense here. Yes, Virginia is only allowing 3.7 yards per rush, but that was vs. an ACC schedule.
When the Cavaliers finally got a chance to prove their worth vs. a good teem in the finale, the Hokies ran right through them for 183 rushing yards.
2. Why Virginia will cover the spread: Basically, whichever team gets the most rushing yards in this game will cover the spread, so Virginia has the exact same key as Auburn. The Cavaliers have a couple of solid running backs to go to in Perry Jones (883 yards on 5.0 yards per carry) and Kevin Parks (661 yards on 4.7 YPC), and they will be running against one of the lesser defenses in the SEC, as Auburn is allowing 29.3 points and 405.9 yards per game, as well as a poor 4.7 yards per rush.
A second key for Virginia would be having its strong rushing defense numbers translate well vs. a stronger opponent. That did not happen vs. Virginia Tech, but the Cavs might be able to stuff the box here in an attempt to commit to stopping the run, as Auburn had issues at quarterback all year long.
3. Total Talk: We see both teams running often, so the ‘under’ is the logical call in this game. After all, none of the three quarterbacks used by Auburn has been very accurate and they have combined for only 15 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. Meanwhile, Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco has as many touchdown passes as interceptions with 11 apiece.
4. Betting Trends for the game: ACC underdogs have gone a nice 31-14-1 in bowls since 2000, and Virginia has been a big part of that, going 4-1 ATS in its last five bowl games overall. However, Auburn is 9-3 ATS in its last 12 games following an ATS loss.
There is a clash of total trends here, as the ‘over’ is 7-1 in Virginia’s last eight bowl games but the ‘under’ is 8-1-1 in Auburn’s last 10 games vs. the ACC.
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