A pair of teams familiar with the middle of the pack in their division, and Charlotte, N.C., in general, will face off at the end of the month.
Virginia will be South Carolina’s opponent in the Belk Bowl after it finished third in the Coastal Division of the ACC. The Cavaliers played in the first bowl here, which was called the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002, a 48-22 win over West Virginia. The Cavs also played in the same bowl in 2003, a 23-16 win over Pitt.
South Carolina, which finished the regular season with a 7-5 overall record (4-4 SEC) and tied for third in the SEC East Division, will make its third consecutive bowl appearance. The Gamecocks have won 5 of their past 6 bowl games.
In the bowl announcement, coach Will Muschamp noted that Charlotte has one of the largest, if not the largest, South Carolina alumni bases outside the Palmetto state.
Virginia is in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 14 seasons, a goal coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team set before the season.
This is Mendenhall’s third season at Virginia, and his best. The Cavaliers went 2-10 in his first year, 6-7 last season with a loss to Navy in the Military Bowl, and are 7-5 this season.
Here are 5 things to know about Virginia.
1. How the Cavaliers got here
They finished 7-5 overall and 4-4 in the ACC, a regular season capped by a 34-31 loss to Virginia Tech. Three of the four conferences losses came in the last four games, including to Pitt and Georgia Tech.
The Cavs’ best win came 28-14 at Duke, its second consecutive win underdog win following Miami.
2. Their best offensive player is Bryce Perkins
The dual-threat quarterback has 842 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns. He’s ninth in the ACC in passing at 206 yards per game. But he’s tied for the lead in the ACC in touchdown passes (22). He’s fifth in the ACC in passing yards (2,472).
The Cavaliers are ninth in scoring offense in the ACC, ninth in rushing offense, 10th in passing offense and 10th in total offense.
3. Their best defensive player is Juan Thornhill
He leads the team in tackles (92) and interceptions (5), and is an All-ACC player with 12 starts this season. He made big plays all season, including against Indiana where he made 7 tackles, intercepted a pass and blocked a PAT and returned it for the first defensive extra points by a Cavalier since 1994. He also led UVA with 14 tackles at Virginia Tech.
The Cavaliers are third in scoring defense in the ACC, seventh in rushing defense, second in passing defense and third in total defense.
4. Their history with South Carolina
South Carolina leads the series, 21-13-1, and the teams last met in 2003, a 31-7 South Carolina win in a game coached by Lou Holtz and Al Groh. Though the Cavaliers won the previous year in Charlottesville, 34-21. Before that, they last met in 1986 and 1987 when the home teams also won in the home-and-home series.
5. Both teams are familiar with Charlotte
South Carolina will make its first appearance in the Belk Bowl. But the Gamecocks have played regular-season games in Charlotte three times. They are 3-0 at Bank of America Stadium, most recently defeated N.C. State, 35-28, to open the 2017 season. Virginia is making its third appearance in the game, and in Charlotte. The Cavaliers have a perfect 2-0 record at Bank of America Stadium.