2014 Belk Bowl Picks: Georgia vs. Louisville Odds and Expert Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/15/2014
Tuesday, Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET - Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
I don't know why I am as compelled by this game as I am. It's not because of the sponsor. As a Canadian, I had to look up what a Belk is - a higher-end southern department store, if you are as clueless on that front as me. It's not because of a fondness for the coaches - Mark Richt has long been overrated in my eyes, and Bobby Petrino is the worst kind of human being. It's not because these are the best teams in the world - at 9-3 neither team was on the verge of greatness this year. Maybe it's because I just never expect to see watchable football on a Tuesday, so a game of this caliber stands out. Or maybe I just know that I'll just be so sick of family by that point in the holidays that any game will be blessed relief. Whatever the reason, on the second tier of games, which has been forgotten more than ever in this new era of the College Football Playoff, this game stands out as one I am really looking forward to.
Belk Bowl: Georgia vs. Louisville Storylines
Bobby Petrino knows the SEC. In 2002 he was the offensive coordinator at Auburn, and he coached Arkansas from 2008-2011. Mark Richt has been at Georgia since 2001, so Petrino has faced him and knows what to expect. They played twice while Petrino was at Arkansas, with the home team losing both times. Georgia also beat Auburn in 2002 - the only time in four tries that year that Auburn lost to a Top-10 program. Petrino also knows the state of Georgia pretty well - he had a short but dramatic tenure as the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2007 before he left mid-season to return to the college ranks at Arkansas. Not a single person in that state would be sad to see Petrino lose.
There are a couple of very intriguing matchups at the heart of this game. First, Louisville's aerial game. Louisville is not an elite passing team, but it is through the air that they do their most important work. If they can't pass effectively then they are likely to be in trouble. Georgia's passing defense is the second best in the country, giving up just 158.4 yards per game. Likely edge to Georgia on that front. Next up is Georgia's run attack. The Bulldogs are a one-dimensional team - with 255 yards rushing they have the 13th-best running game in the country, yet they pass for less than 200 yards per game, which is 89th in the country. Louisville has a Top-10 defense, and that is driven by true excellence against the run - their mere 94.9 yards per game allowed is fourth best in the country. Strength against strength is the defining aspect of this game.
The red zone is going to be important in this one. Louisville is efficient when they are given a chance to score - they converted 45 of 50 red zone visits into points, which is a decent 85 percent rate. Georgia, meanwhile, had teams in their red zone 34 times and allowed them to score 28 times - an 82 percent rate. Georgia's defense will bend too much if Louisville gets close, so the Bulldogs have to keep the Cardinals closer to the middle of the field to find success.
I get sick of hearing about the superiority of the SEC all of the time, but in this case the difference between conferences has to be addressed. The SEC didn't have its best year, but it was still a very deep, brutally tough conference. The ACC, on the other hand, was just plain lousy. Strength of schedule rankings reflect that - Georgia was 15th in the country, while Louisville was just 54th. The Cardinals are taking a big step up in class in this one - their best win was probably against a Notre Dame team that wound up just 7-5. Georgia, meanwhile, has wins over Missouri and Auburn. The teams had two common opponents as well. Georgia steamrolled both Clemson (45-21) and Kentucky (63-31). Louisville lost to Clemson 23-17 and narrowly escaped in a 44-40 mess against Kentucky to finish off the season.
Belk Bowl: Georgia vs. Louisville Betting Odds and Trends
The game opened with Georgia favored by a touchdown. More than two-thirds of all bets have come in on the Bulldogs, yet the line has dipped to 6.5. That's a good sign that sharp money has hit the Cardinals hard here. The total opened 56 and is showing signs that it could move up slightly.
The Bulldogs are 5-2 ATS in their last seven overall and 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records. They are 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 games against ACC opponents. Louisville 6-2 ATS in their last eight against teams with winning records and 4-1 ATS both in their last five bowl games and in their last five against the SEC.
2014 Belk Bowl Picks: Georgia vs. Louisville Expert Betting Predictions
I don't like giving the SEC credit, but I have to here. I am not a fan of the way the second half of the season played out for the Cardinals. They are playing a better team than they are used to, and I imagine that Georgia will be more effective running the ball than other teams have been against the Cardinals. Giving up less than a touchdown make the Bulldogs quite attractive here. Georgia is the pick.
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