Scott German: Belk Bowl preview, prediction

Belk BowlUVA football will be appearing in its 20th bowl game in school history when it takes the field at high-noon Saturday here in Charlotte in the 17th annual Belk Bowl..

The Cavaliers will battle South Carolina Gamecocks from the SEC.  Both teams stand at 7-5 for the season.

Augusta Free Press coverage of the 2018 Belk Bowl is presented by Bear Creek. AFP’s coverage is also sponsored by Studio 3•6 on East Market Street in Charlottesville.

While Virginia ended the season with gut-wrenching defeats at Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, the Cavaliers can find solace in the fact they are on a two-game winning streak here in the Queen City of the South.

Virginia claimed back-to-back wins in the 2002 and 2003 seasons when the game was called the Continental Tire Bowl, beating West Virginia in 2002 and Pittsburgh in 2003. How’s that for finding some positive karma?

If the Cavaliers are going to be able to stretch their winning streak to three here in Charlotte, here are my keys to winning.

Let bygones be bygones

Under no circumstances, whatever happens in the opening minutes of the Belk Bowl, should this team even begin to think back on the debacle in the Antarctica  (Annapolis, Military Bowl, 2 degrees at kickoff).

Take an us against them mentality

South Carolina has a huge, rabid fan base that for most of them this is practically a home game (it’s 92 miles from Columbia, S.C., to Bank of America Stadium).

The crowd will be predominantly Gamecock fans, and they will be loud. Virginia needs to rally behind this and finally take that next step to returning this program to the level they desire. Good teams win on the road.

Passing is fancy, but running the ball wins games

Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall told Augusta Free Press editor Chris Graham in this morning’s media gathering that yes, indeed, pace and tempo was a key to beating South Carolina. Establishing a solid running game will control the clock, thus keeping the Virginia defense fresh.

Don’t be charitable

Looking back on the 2018 regular season. it doesn’t take a football genius to realize that so goes the turnover battle, as does the Cavaliers. Ball security could be a key. South Carolina has big boy players that are more than capable of handling things on their own. Virginia can ill afford to make things easy for USC.

Take the keys away from Bentley

South Carolina likes to pass. They like to pass a lot. Like USC signal-caller Jake Bentley passed for a career high 510 yards against Clemson (yes that Clemson) in the Gamecocks’ 56-35 defeat in Death Valley.

It was the most ever passing yards yielded by a Clemson defense.

Despite playing without star receiver Deebo Samuel, who elected to skip the bowl to prepare for the upcoming NFL draft , USC has plenty of other weapons.

Prediction time

First, it will warmer than last year’s bowl game. (a forecast 65 degrees at kickoff)  Heck, that may even be second as well!

Virginia will play better, give South Carolina all they want, but in the end, playing this game this close to the Gamecocks campus will win out.

South Carolina 27 Virginia 20

Column by Scott German

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