Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:00 PM
Saturday's Early Bowl Tips
Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards is on a 10-6 run in college football since the Army-Navy game. Don’t miss out on the rest of bowl selections through the CFP finals!
Florida vs. Michigan
-- This is the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl pitting the Big Ten vs. the SEC in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
-- Michigan has absolutely dominated Florida in football and basketball for decades! In the Round of 32 at the 1988 NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Wolverines ended Vernon Maxwell’s UF career out in Salt Lake City by dealing out a 108-85 pimpslap. I was at Jerry World for the 2013 South Region finals when Nik Stauskas drained a plethora of 3-balls and sent the Gators packing from the Elite Eight for the fourth straight season in a blowout. The Wolverines beat UF 38-30 at the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day of 2003. Then at the Capital One Bowl on New Year’s Day of 2008, Michigan bested Florida by a 41-35 count to send Lloyd Carr into retirement as a winner. In the 2016 Outback Bowl, Michigan destroyed UF 41-7.
-- When these schools met at Jerry World in Week 1 of the 2017 season, Florida raced out to a 17-3 lead thanks to a pair of first-half pick-sixes from C.J. Henderson and Duke Dawson. However, Jim Harbaugh’s club would respond with 30 unanswered points and win 33-17 as a five-point favorite. It was the first career start for Feleipe Franks, who was yanked in the third quarter after completing 5-of-9 passes for 75 yards. He coughed up a crucial fumble trying to scramble for a first down.
-- As of early Friday, most books had Michigan (10-2 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) installed as a six-point favorite with a total of 50.5. The Gators were +190 on the money line. The Wolverines opened as 7.5-point ‘chalk,’ but the decisions of four players to skip the game has led to a 1.5-point adjustment.
-- Michigan will be without LB Devin Bush, DE Rashan Gary, RB Karan Higdon and OT Juwan Bushell-Beatty. Bush produced a team-best 79 tackles along with five sacks, four tackles for loss, six passes broken up and a pair of QB hurries. Gary, who is pegged as a first-round pick by most NFL Draft experts, recorded 44 tackles, four TFL’s, 3.5 sacks and five QB hurries in nine games. Higdon rushed for 1,178 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. Bushell-Beatty started 11 games this year and 19 in his career.
-- Michigan ripped off a 10-game winning streak after losing its opener 24-17 at Notre Dame. Harbaugh’s bunch was poised to win the Big Ten East and advance to the College Football Playoff if it could win its regular-season finale at Ohio State and follow up that win with another vs. Northwestern the next week at the Big Ten Championship Game. But those hopes were shattered in 60 minutes of football at The ‘Shoe, as the Buckeyes blasted the Wolverines 62-39 as 4.5-point home underdogs. Shea Patterson completed 20-of-34 passes for 187 yards and three TDs with one interception. Higdon rushed for 72 yards on 15 attempts and Nico Collins had four receptions for 91 yards and two TDs.
-- Patterson, the transfer from Ole Miss who played two seasons for the Rebels and was granted immediate eligibility in Ann Arbor, connected on 64.8 percent of his throws for 2,364 yards with a 21/5 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Patterson ran for 268 yards and two TDs with a 4.1 YPC average. His favorite target is Collins, who has 33 catches for 552 yards and six TDs. Donovan Peoples-Jones has 39 receptions for 541 yards and seven TDs, while Zach Gentry has 30 grabs for 475 yards and two TDs.
-- With Higdon out, the ground game will lean on Chris Evans and Tru Wilson. Evans has 403 rushing yards, four TDs and a 5.4 YPC average, while Wilson has run for 355 yards and one TD while averaging 6.0 YPC.
-- Michigan has compiled a 1-2 record both SU and ATS in three games as a single-digit favorite this year.
-- Michigan is ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, second in pass defense, 16th at defending the run and 12th in scoring ‘D’ (17.6 points per game).
-- Michigan is 7-5 in 12 bowl games against SEC opponents since 1984.
-- After a nightmare 2017 campaign ended in a 4-7 record and saw Jim McElwain dismissed after a torturous tenure that covered (nearly) three seasons, Florida (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) enjoyed an excellent initial year on Dan Mullen’s watch. Mullen, who was UF’s offensive coordinator in 2006 and 2008 when it won a pair of national championships, spent nine seasons as head coach at Mississippi State before returning to Gainesville.
-- UF’s three losses came at home vs. Kentucky (27-16), vs. Georgia (36-17 in Jacksonville) and at home vs. Missouri (38-17). The Gators’ best victories were at Mississippi State (13-6) and vs. LSU (27-19). They posted comeback wins at Vanderbilt (37-27 after being down 21-3) and vs. South Carolina (35-31 after trailing 31-14), in addition to crushing arch rivals Tennessee (47-21) and FSU (41-14) at Neyland and Doak Campbell Stadiums, respectively.
-- Florida brings a three-game winning streak to The ATL after trouncing the Seminoles as an 8.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The Gators produced 24 first downs and 536 yards of total offense, while the ‘Noles had only 15 first downs and 293 yards. Franks completed 16-of-26 passes for 254 yards and three TDs without an interception. He also ran 12 times for 46 yards. Lamical Perine rushed for 129 yards and one TD on 13 carries, while Jordan Scarlett had 88 rushing yards and one TD on 20 attempts. Trevon Grimes had five receptions for 118 yards and one TD, while Van Jefferson caught four balls for 92 yards and one TD.
-- Franks has completed 58.5 percent of his throws for 2,284 yards with a 23/6 TD-INT ratio. He passed his stats with eight TD passes without an interception in a pair of games against FCS foes, but the Wakulla County (FL.) High School product was nonetheless more effective than most (my hand is raised) thought he’s be, which is a credit to Mullen. Franks proved to be a tough, physical runner with 276 rushing yards and six TDs.
-- Gamblers should expect true freshman QB Emory Jones to be a part of UF’s offensive plan. Jones has played in only three games so he’ll still retain his redshirt status per the NCAA’s new rules. He completed 12-of-16 passes for 125 yards and two TDs without an interception. Jones ran for 27 yards on 14 attempts.
-- Perine has rushed for a team-high 750 yards and six TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC. Scarlett, who sat all of 2017 due to a suspension, returned to produce 717 rushing yards, four TDs and a 5.9 YPC average.
-- Jefferson, a transfer from Ole Miss who used to play with Patterson, hauled in a team-best 31 receptions for 439 yards and six TDs. Grimes, a transfer from Ohio State who, like Jefferson, is a former five-star recruit, has 25 catches for 366 yards and two TDs. Josh Hammon has 26 grabs for 308 yards and four TDs, and Freddie Swain has 14 catches for 265 yards and five TDs.
-- Florida WR Tyrie Cleveland is ‘out’ after breaking his collarbone in the win at FSU. Cleveland has 18 receptions for 212 yards and three TDs.
-- UF was an underdog three times this year, going 2-1 both SU and ATS.
-- UF is ranked 27th in the nation in total defense, eighth at defending the pass and 22nd in scoring ‘D’ (20.4 PPG).
-- UF owns an 8-3 record in 11 bowl games since 2005. The only loss to a foe not named Michigan was the 33-23 loss to Louisville at the 2012 Sugar Bowl.
-- The ‘over’ went 5-2 in Michigan’s last seven regular-season games to improve to 7-5 overall. The Wolverines have seen their games average combined scores of 54.4 PPG.
-- The ‘over’ has hit in three straight UF games and is 5-1-1 in its last seven contests to improve to 7-4-1 overall. The Gators have watched their games average combined scores of 54.9 PPG.
-- Kickoff is scheduled for noon Eastern on ESPN.
South Carolina vs. Virginia
-- This is the Belk Bowl in Charlotte that’ll be played at Bank of America Stadium. As of early Friday, most betting shops had South Carolina (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) installed as a 5.5-point favorite with a total of 54. The Cavaliers were +180 to win outright (risk $100 to win $180).
-- South Carolina finished fourth in the SEC East with a 4-4 record in league play. Will Muschamp has the Gamecocks bowling for a third straight season. They rallied to beat Michigan 26-19 as an eight-point underdog in last year’s Outback Bowl. During Muschamp’s first season, South Carolina lost 46-39 to South Florida in overtime at the Birmingham Bowl but took the money as a 10-point underdog.
-- South Carolina’s best wins were at Vanderbilt (37-14) and vs. Missouri (37-35). The Gamecocks lost heartbreakers vs. Texas A&M (26-23) and at Florida (35-31). In their rivalry game on Nov. 24, they were without nine injured defensive players at Clemson. Facing one of the nation’s premier defenses, USC rolled up 600 yards of total offense thanks to junior QB Jake Bentley, who completed 32-of-50 passes for 510 yards and five TDs compared to just one interception. Unfortunately, the Tigers racked up 744 yards of offense, including 351 rushing yards. Deebo Samuel had a monster game, hauling in 10 receptions for 210 yards and three TDs. Shi Smith caught nine balls for 109 yards and one TD.
-- Since USC had its Week 3 home game vs. Marshall cancelled due to a hurricane, it played host to Akron on Dec. 1 to get a 12th game in. Muschamp’s club saw its 4-0 ATS surge snapped in a 28-3 win over the Zips as a 28.5-point home favorite. A streak of four consecutive ‘overs’ also came to a halt with the 31 combined points dropping ‘under’ the 55-point tally. Mon Denson ran for 110 yards on 17 carries and Rico Dowdle produced 86 rushing yards on 13 totes. Bentley hit 14-of-27 throws for 199 yards and three TDs compared to interceptions. Bryan Edwards had five receptions for 109 yards and one TD, while Samuel had four catches for 33 yards and two TDs.
-- Samuel, who was a first-team All-SEC return specialist and a second-team All-SEC WR, will skip the bowl game to stay healthy for the NFL Draft. Samuel had a sensational career, scoring six TDs in the first 2.5 games of the 2017 campaign before sustaining a season-ending leg fracture. He finished this season with 62 receptions for 882 yards and 11 TDs, in addition to 570 yards on kickoff returns and one TD. For his career, Samuel played in 30 games and produced 148 catches for 2,076 yards and 16 TDs. He had 1,219 yards on kick returns and four TDs and rushed for 154 yards and seven TDs with a 6.2 YPC average.
-- Bentley has completed 63.9 percent of his passes for 2,953 yards with a 27/12 TD-INT ratio. He also has two rushing scores. For his career, Bentley has a 54/28 TD-INT ratio and eight rushing TDs.
-- Edwards, a junior who hasn’t announced whether he’s going to return to school skip his senior season to enter the NFL Draft yet, has 52 receptions for 809 yards and seven TDs. Smith, a true sophomore who is listed as ‘questionable’ vs. UVA for undisclosed reasons, has 39 catches for 597 yards and four TDs.
-- South Carolina has four quality RBs. Dowdle rushed for a team-best 638 yards and four TDs while averaging 5.5 YPC. Denson has 415 rushing yards, two TDs and a 5.1 YPC average, while Ty’Son Williams has 319 rushing yards, four TDs and a 4.8 YPC average. A.J. Turner has run for 294 yards and two TDs while averaging 6.4 YPC.
-- USC has been a single-digit favorite just twice this year, posting a 2-0 SU record and a 1-1 ATS mark.
-- Virginia (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS) is in the postseason for a second straight year for the first time since 2004-2005. During the third season of Bronco Mendenhall’s tenure, UVA won seven games for the first time since 2011. The Cavaliers got destroyed 49-7 by Navy as 1.5-point underdogs in last year’s Military Bowl.
-- UVA has been an underdog five times this season, going 4-1 ATS with a pair of outright wins at Duke (28-14) and vs. Miami (16-13).
-- Mendenhall’s team took a 6-2 record into a home game vs. Pitt on Nov. 2. However, the Panthers came to Charlottesville and won a 23-13 decision as seven-point road underdogs. UVA would bounce back to top Liberty 45-24, only to lose back-to-back overtime games at Ga. Tech (30-27) and at Va. Tech (34-31) to close the regular season.
-- Virginia was a four-point road favorite to snap a 14-game losing streak against the Hokies, who raced out to a 14-0 halftime lead. UVA signal caller Bryce Perkins hit Joe Reed for a pair of third-quarter TD passes of 29 and 75 yards and the Cavs trailed 17-14 heading into the final stanza. After Va. Tech extended its lead to 24-14 on the opening play of the fourth quarter, UVA countered with a 12-yard TD run from Jordan Ellis to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 12:55 remaining. Then with 6:51 left, the Cavs took their first lead on a 29-yard scoring strike from Perkins to Hasise Dubois. They would go up 31-24 on Brian Delaney’s 28-yard field goal with 2:41 left. Va. Tech pulled even when Hezekiah Grimsley recovered his teammate’s fumble in the end zone with 1:51 remaining. In the extra session, the Hokies had the ball first and went ahead on a 42-yard FG by Brian Johnson. On UVA’s possession, it got a quick first down only to botch a handoff between Perkins and Ellis on the next play. The fumble was recovered by Va. Tech to end the game and give it a 15th straight win in the in-state rivalry.
-- UVA comes to Charlotte having lost three of its past four games both SU and ATS. The Cavs covered as 6.5-point underdogs in the OT loss to the Yellow Jackets on The Flats in Midtown Atlanta.
-- Perkins, a juco transfer who started his career at Arizona State, has completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,472 yards with a 22/9 TD-INT ratio. He’s also a playmaker with his legs, rushing for 842 yards and nine TDs with a 4.3 YPC average. Ellis has run for a team-best 920 yards and nine TDs while averaging 4.9 YPC.
-- Olamide Zaccheaus is Perkins’ favorite target, catching 82 balls for 973 yards and six TDs. Dubois has 47 receptions for 521 yards and five TDs, while Reed has 24 grabs for 455 yards and seven TDs.
-- UVA is ranked 24th in the country in total defense, 14th at defending the pass and 27th in scoring ‘D’ (21.8 PPG).
-- After cashing in four of its last five regular-season games, the ‘over’ improve to 7-5 overall for the Gamecocks. Their games have averaged combined scores of 59.8 PPG.
-- The ‘over’ has hit three consecutive UVA contests and four of its last five to improve to 7-5 overall. The Cavs have seen their games average combined scores of 50.2 PPG.
-- ABC will provide the telecast at noon Eastern.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.