Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
CHICK-FIL-A BOWL STORYLINES:
1. Auburn’s fall from national champion to the middle of the pack in the SEC and the Chick-fil-A Bowl begins with the loss of star quarterback Cam Newton and the revolving door that was left under center. Barrett Trotter began the season as the starter, but was replaced by Clint Moseley down the stretch. Now Moseley is splitting snaps with freshman Kiehl Frazier, who could see some playing time in the bowl game.
2. Regardless of who’s under center for the Tigers, he will have to face a stiff Virginia defense (29th nationally with 343.2 yards allowed per game) without sophomore running back Michael Dyer. The first Auburn player to top 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons, Dyer was suspended for violating team rules and will be replaced by Onterio McCalebb.
3. The Cavaliers have been balanced on offense, averaging 231.5 passing yards and 165.2 rushing yards, but they might need to rely more on running backs Perry Jones (883 yards) and Kevin Parks (nine touchdowns) against Auburn, which gives up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground.
4. The teams have met only twice, with each winning on the opponent’s home field in 1997 and 1998. The Tigers won 28-17 at Virginia in the first meeting, and the Cavaliers returned the favor with a 19-0 win at Auburn the following season.
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com, ESPN 3D. LINE: Auburn -2.5.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (8-4): The Cavaliers have enjoyed a rapid resurgence under second-year coach Mike London, who was named the ACC Coach of the Year after leading the Cavaliers within one win of the ACC title game. They are in their first bowl game since the 2007 season and seeking their first bowl win since the 2005 season. The excitement of playing for the division title faded quickly in a 38-0 loss to rival Virginia Tech in the regular-season finale as sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco threw two interceptions and was sacked four times.
ABOUT AUBURN (7-5): The Tigers’ offense naturally dropped off considerably after losing Newton to the NFL, and Dyer and the running game became the focal point. Without Dyer, Auburn might struggle to move the ball. And that’s not the only change affecting the Tigers. They have lost both their offensive and defensive coordinators since the end of the regular season, with defensive coordinator Ted Roof accepting the same position at Central Florida and offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn taking the coaching job at Arkansas State. Malzahn will coach Auburn’s offense in the bowl game, but head coach Gene Chizik will lead the defense.
PREDICTION: Virginia 27, Auburn 20 – The Cavaliers’ defense should be able to slow down an offense that will lack firepower without Dyer. Click here to Place your College Football Bowl bets at Bovada Sportsbook