Belk Bowl: Looking Ahead to the Gamecocks and the Cavaliers

The South Carolina Gamecocks will play the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday at 11 am. The game will be broadcast on ABC from Charlotte. The Gamecocks finished 7-5 this season, below expectations. The Cavs finished 2018 7-5 as well. They have improved over each of Bronco Mendenhall’s three seasons in Charlottesville.

This is a fairly even matchup with the Gamecocks a 5.5-point favorite.

Let’s preview the Belk Bowl from both teams’ perspectives.

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

The Gamecocks fate in this game will likely live and die by the right arm of QB Jake Bentley. The Bentley Experience has been a world-class roller coaster in 2018. Some Gamecock fans were calling for his head early in the year.

The running back room has been hit hardest by injuries. Mon Denson is probably the only back 100% healthy for the Belk Bowl. Rico Dowdle has played recently at about 70%. Tyson Williams still has a cast on his hand.

South Carolina will be without star wide receiver, Deebo Samuel. Samuel has decided to forego the game to focus on draft preparation. The Gamecocks will still have the ultra-talented Bryan Edwards. Edwards had 809 yards and seven scores. Shi Smith and Josh Vann will have to take up the slack for the missing Deebo.

On defense, team leader Bryson Allen-Williams returns from an ankle injury. He should help the Carolina pass rush. Talented true freshman corner Jaycee Horn also returns. The thin Gamecocks secondary needs the boost.

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VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

The UVA offense is led by former Arizona State quarterback Bryce Perkins. Perkins has breathed life into the Cavaliers offense. He is a true dual threat QB. Perkins threw for 2472 yards and 22 touchdowns. He ran for 842 yards and 9 TDs. The Gamecocks have not faced a QB like him this season.

Senior RB Jordan Ellis is a threat in the backfield. Ellis was more of a threat in the passing game a year ago. However, he is still a player Carolina must account for. Olamide Zaccheaus is a jack-of-all-trades for Virginia. He will line up all over to create mismatches.

Defensively for Virginia, their top two players are in the secondary. Safety Juan Thornhill leads the team in tackles with 92. He also leads the team in picks with five. Thornhill has accepted an invite to play in the Senior Bowl. Some experts believe that junior corner Bryce Harris could be a first-round pick. Harris has five career interceptions. South Carolina would be wise not to challenge him often.

Virginia has a solid pass rush. Senior edge rusher Chris Peace leads the Cavaliers with six sacks. Sophomore Charles Snowden only has 2.5 sacks but has tremendous upside.

BELK BOWL PREDICTION

As I said above, both teams are evenly matched for the most part. The result will probably come down to the normal football clichés. Who wins the turnover battle? Both teams have been fairly even at that this season. Despite the injuries, I feel the Gamecocks are the more talented team overall.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Virginia 16

What do you think will happen in the Belk Bowl? Let us know in the comments!

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