Chick-Fil-A Bowl Picks & Predictions: Virginia vs. Auburn 12/31/11

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The Chick-Fil-A Bowl has become one of the most recognizable games on the bowl schedule on a regular basis, as it is always the last one that is played before the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve. This year, we make our Chick-Fil-A Bowl picks in the clash at the Georgia Dome between the Auburn Tigers and the Virginia Cavaliers.

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Chick-Fil-A Bowl Matchup: Virginia Cavaliers vs. Auburn Tigers
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Date/Time: Saturday, December 31st, 7:00 ET
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Location: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Odds: Auburn -3
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Total: 49.5
Chick-Fil-A Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN, ESPN3.com

Historically, this is the one oddball game that pits the SEC up against the ACC in which the ACC teams do rather well. Last year, it was the Florida State Seminoles that knocked off the South Carolina Gamecocks, and that marked the second straight season in which the ACC really blew out the SEC. This year, if it happens, it is going to be up to the UVA defense to slow down the offense of the defending national champs, though we all know that the Tigers look like a shell of the team that won the title last season.

That being said, Auburn probably overachieved this year to finish at 7-5. Many remember how the Utah State Aggies had the Tigers dead to rights at Jordan Hare Stadium in Week 1, and many were set to castrate the team because of it. Little did they know that USU was set to be one of the best teams in the WAC and went on to have one of the most efficient offenses in the nation. Add that to the typical SEC West schedule, and it was true that the year was brutal for the Tigers. That being said, they really lost their identity as a dangerous offensive team when QB Cam Newton went to the pros, as OC Gus Malzahn just didn’t have the talent to work with. That talent is going to get slashed dramatically in this game, as last year’s BCS National Championship superhero RB Michael Dyer has been suspended and won’t be in the fold. Gone are over 1,200 rushing yards and a third of the team’s offensive touchdowns for the campaign. RB Onterio McCalebb has potential, but 532 rushing yards and 291 receiving yards on the year just don’t add up to the 1,242 rushing yards and 10 scores that Dyer produced.

Virginia’s offense was efficient this year and surprisingly averaged 23.2 points per game in spite of the fact that seemingly every game in the ACC this year seemingly ended with about 30 total points on the scoreboard. Sure, the regular season ended with disappointment when the Cavvies were shut out by their hated rivals, the Virginia Tech Hokies in the de facto Coastal Division title game. However, their win on the road at the Florida State Seminoles proved that they have the ability to get the job done against some of the best teams in the nation when the defense is really getting to the quarterback. The ground game help keeps games short for UVA, but the real story was the defense, which had kept four straight teams to 21 points or fewer before getting blasted by the Hokies.

That being said, we just don’t think that Auburn really has the goods to get the job done without Dyer. We think that the speed on the Cavaliers’ defense is too much, and unless McCalebb can bust some runs or passes to the outside, there just isn’t that explosive potential for the Tigers. Take the points for sure and watch as the ACC makes it three in a row in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

Free Chick-Fil-A Bowl Pick: Virginia +3

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Lou Palumbo is the founder and part owner of the Cappersinfo.com Sports Handicapping Community. He's been writing and posting free picks and sports handicapping strategies on the Cappersinfo forums and website for 15 years now. He enjoys handicapping just as much as he did from the very first day he built the original Cappersinfo website.

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