The State’s Josh Kendall and Ben Breiner predict South Carolina’s Belk Bowl matchup with Virginia (noon Saturday, ABC).
There are reasons for concern as South Carolina prepares to face Virginia on Saturday in the Belk Bowl. Chiefly, there is one main reason for concern, and that is Cavaliers junior quarterback Bryce Perkins.
Perkins set UVA’s single-season yardage record this year at 3,314 yards, and he’s exactly the type of player who has given the Gamecocks problems — a dual-threat quarterback who makes a play even when the called play doesn’t work. That’s a particular problem for a South Carolina defense that is without defensive linemen Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum, Aaron Sterling, etc., and a whole host of defensive backs.
So, that’s the worrisome news. The better news for the Gamecocks is Virginia still is an average football team with one of the nation’s most dynamic players. The Cavaliers are 7-5 without a signature win this season. (No, a ranked but reeling Miami team doesn’t count.) In many ways, Virginia is the mirror image of the Gamecocks, a team with enough close losses to believe it’s better than its record but not enough quality to wins to be able to claim arrival.
The Virginia defense features star cornerback Bryce Hall, but the Cavaliers take enough chances that a South Carolina offense with some momentum can make big plays. Unless the long break after the end of the regular season has slowed the Gamecocks offense, that should be enough to carry them to a close win.
The pick: South Carolina 28, Virginia 24
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USC might roll for a simple reason, its 7-5 is built on a stronger base than Virginia’s, which was heavy on mid-tier squads from the middle of the ACC.
USC is favored by at least five, and it should be.
But that Perkins issue looms large.
Almost every fanbase has a thing about mobile quarterbacks. They see that guy running around the backfield, slipping tacklers, and those memories just stick.
To watch Perkins is to see a player who personifies the football adjective slippery. The way he moves, the way he slips out of trouble, the way he has a busted play and suddenly makes it it into a positive is something to behold. It’s beyond just speed, but an ability to just escape and get on the move.
He’s the kind of player who could win a game against a banged-up defense, and that’s what USC has.
The Gamecocks’ offensive strength (passing) matches UVA’s strength on defense, so South Carolina will likely have to push through the best the Cavs have to offer, all without Deebo Samuel.
UVA still has its top playmaker, and that could be the difference.
The pick: Virginia 27, South Carolina 24