The AAC’s East Carolina Pirates will head to Legion Field this Saturday to tangle with the SEC’s Florida Gators in this season’s Birmingham Bowl. Kickoff is slated for noon (ET), and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
The Pirates’ first season in the AAC after jumping ship from Conference USA would have to be considered a moderate success with an overall straight up record of 8-4, including a 5-3 record in conference play. They were just 5-7 against the spread after failing to cover in seven of their last eight games. The total went “over” in three of their final four outings.
Florida’s shaky 6-5 record (both SU and ATS) cost former head coach Will Muschamp his job, but the Gators came very close to knocking off Florida State in their season finale in a 24-19 loss as seven-point road underdogs. They ended the year by covering in four of their final five games, and the total went over in three of those contests.
East Carolina vs. Florida Betting Storylines
East Carolina gave another SEC team, South Carolina, all it could handle early in the season in a 33-23 loss as a 14.5-point road underdog, and then it proceeded to knock off Virginia Tech and North Carolina, out of the ACC, the following two weeks. The Pirates were one of the higher-scoring teams in the nation this season with an average of 37.2 points a game. Defensively they did have their issues at times; allowing 54 points in a loss to Cincinnati and 32 points in a season-ending loss to Central Florida. Overall, this unit was tagged for an average of 25.7 points a game.
Quarterback Shane Carden threw for the second-most yards in the country this season with 4,309 yards on 551 attempts for a completion rate of 65 percent. He tossed 28 touchdowns while getting picked-off just eight times. His favorite target was Justin Hardy, who caught 110 passes for 1,334 yards and nine scores. Overall, the Pirates were ranked third in the nation in passing yards per game (367.3).
The Gators’ overall program as slipped rather steeply over the past few seasons, and they have become an afterthought in the SEC title race. They closed out play in the conference with a 23-20 loss to South Carolina as 6.5-point favorites at home. Florida was an even 4-4 SU in the SEC this season with the only notable victory coming against Georgia in a 38-20 romp as a 12-point road underdog.
The defense held up fairly well over the course of the year, and while it did get tagged for 42 points by both Alabama and Missouri in double-digit losses, the Gators ended the season ranked 22nd in the country in points allowed (21.2). On the other side of the ball, Florida racked up an average of 30.5 points behind a solid running game. It averaged 189.5 yards a gamebehind the legs of Matt Jones. He rushed for 817 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 4.9 yards a carry.
East Carolina vs. FloridaBetting Odds and Trends
Pointspread: Florida -6.5
Total Line: 56
The betting trends on Doc’s Sports have the Pirates covering in five of their last six games as underdogs. They are 3-5 ATS in their last eight bowl games, and the total has gone over in seven of their last nine games played at a neutral site.
The Gators are 4-1 ATS in their last five trips to a bowl game, and they are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 neutral-site games. The total has gone over in six of their last eight bowl games.
This will be the first meeting between these two teams in recent memory. The total has stayed “under” in six of the last eight Birmingham Bowls (when it was known as the Compass Bowl).
Birmingham Bowl Picks: East Carolina vs. Florida Betting Predictions
Both of these teams have shown the ability to not only put some points on the board but also the ability to give them up in bunches against some of the better competition they have faced. Florida can’t be all too thrilled heading into this game in the middle of a coaching change, while East Carolina would love nothing more than to beat a team from the SEC. The result is a high-scoring affair that goes over the current 56-point total line.
Take: # 273 Central Florida vs. Florida OVER 56 – Noon Saturday, Jan. 3
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