The New Year’s weekend bowl games continue with the Virginia Cavaliers (8-4) of the ACC returning to a bowl game after a three-year absence, traveling to Atlanta, GA to take on the defending BCS National Champion Auburn Tigers (7-5) of the SEC this Saturday evening (7:30pm ET) in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The matchup will feature one of the top rushing offenses in the country for Auburn, up against one of the top rushing defenses in the nation for the Cavaliers. Virginia was smoked by in-state rival Virginia Tech 38-0 in their season finale, losing at home as a 4.5 point underdog. Auburn lost two of their last three games, including a 42-14 loss to Alabama in the Iron Bowl as a 21.5 point underdog to conclude the regular season.
The Cavaliers offense ranks 88th among FBS teams with 23.2 points per game and 49th in total offense with 396.7 yards per game. The defense has been the strength of the team, ranking 32nd among FBS teams in scoring defense with 22.2 PPG allowed and 30th in total defense with 343.2 YPG allowed. The afore-mentioned run defense has been stout, allowing 128.3 YPG, good for 33rd best among all FBS teams. Auburn ranks near the bottom of all FBS teams in scoring (82nd with 23.2 PPG) and total offense (105th with 328.2 YPG), but the Tigers have been able to run the ball effectively with an average of 174.8 YPG (38th best among FBS teams) to compensate for a woeful passing attack. The Auburn defense has allowed 29.3 PPG to rank 81st nationally in scoring defense, and 405.8 YPG to rank 79th in the nation in total defense.
Virginia vs. Auburn Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Virginia Cavaliers +3
@Auburn Tigers -3
Over 49.5 (-110)
Under 49.5 (-110)
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Virginia vs. Auburn Pick:
Virginia is 4-1 ATS in their last 5 bowl games and 4-1 ATS in their last 5 December games. Auburn is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games against a team with a winning record and 1-7-1 in their last 9 games against the ACC. The over is 7-1 in Virginia’s last 8 bowl games and 9-3 in their last 12 non-conference games. The under is 8-1-1 in Auburn’s last 9 bowl games and 5-2 in their last 7 neutral site games. The two teams have no recent meetings.
Auburn is far from the team that they were a season ago; the Tigers have an anemic offense that will struggle to score points against a rugged Virginia defense. Virginia has also struggled mightily on offense this season, and the Cavaliers do not throw the ball well enough to take advantage of Auburn’s weakness in the secondary. The strong run defense of the Cavaliers should be able to handle the one-dimensional, run-oriented offense of Auburn and keep the Tigers point total down. Virginia has also had their problems on offense in the form of being unable to convert yards into points all season long. With the 88th best scoring offense among FBS teams for Virginia, and the 82nd best for Auburn this does not figure to be a shootout. The two teams are pretty evenly matched, with Auburn having faced tougher completion in the SEC and Virginia having the more balanced team overall. With the two teams essentially a tossup on the spread, the under is definitely the play to make in this game.