Few expected the SEC‘s Auburn Tigers to equal the heights of their 2010 National Championship season, but a stumbling 7-5 campaign? Conversely, the Virginia Cavaliers were picked amongst the ACC‘s worst, yet were one win from a Coastal division championship. Can the Tigers’ recapture some of last year’s postseason glory in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl?
Bowl Game: Chick-fil-A Bowl
First Year: 1968 (as Peach Bowl)
2011 Participants: Virginia Cavaliers (8-4) vs. Auburn Tigers (7-5)
Last Meeting: 1998, a 19-0 road win by Virginia
The Cavaliers shocked the ACC in 2011, with a staunch defense that shut down some of the conference’s best in Georgia Tech and Florida State. Unfortunately, however, it all came crumbling down in a ghastly effort versus archrival Virginia Tech. Still, aside of that one game, Virginia played close football all year, playing in six games decided by 10 points or less, and only allowed 22 points per game. As good as the defense was, the offense wasn’t all that much better though, sporting the 88th-ranked offense in the country at just 23 points per game. If they’ve got a shot versus Auburn, the Cavs will have to dominate the line of scrimmage, taking a similar approach to the one they took in an exciting 14-13 victory over the Seminoles.
Auburn (previous bowl game: 22-19 win over Oregon in 2011 BCS National Championship Game)
After losing stars Cam Newton and Nick Fairley to the NFL, this Auburn team was expected to have a bit of a learning curve. But the way the Tigers performed in 2011 was disappointing and erratic, equal parts a testament to Fairley and Newton’s talents, and this squad’s overall lack of proficiency in any aspect of the game. Auburn barely averaged 150 passing yards per game, and managed to get outscored by an average of five points per contest. While they managed to beat a very good South Carolina team, they were embarrassed against the SEC’s other top teams — not to mention a near-loss at home to Utah State. While their run-game was ranked amongst the top 40 in the nation, it doesn’t provide the type of advantage truly needed to overtake an aggressive defense.
Auburn failed to excel at much this season, ranking in the bottom third of the nation in points for and against, as well as passing yards. Meanwhile, Virginia’s defense is a well-documented success, capable of keeping some of the ACC’s most prolific offenses in check (Georgia Tech ended up scoring just 21 against them, after averaging over 45 points per game entering their contest). In spite of their many carry-overs from last year’s championship team, the 2011 Auburn team just doesn’t have what it takes to win this game. Prediction: Virginia 27, Auburn 17