The 2017 Belk Bowl gives us an intriguing SEC-ACC matchup between the Texas A&M Aggies and Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Friday, December 29 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Fans can watch the game on ESPN.
The Demon Deacons are listed as 3-point favorites in this year’s Belk Bowl. The over/under is set at 63 points. Click here to check out a full list of bowl game betting odds and links to game previews.
Belk Bowl Vegas Point Spread Preview: Wake Forest vs Texas A&M
With a 7-5 record, Dave Clawson has Wake Forest in a bowl game in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2008. The Demon Deacons started the season fast, going 4-0 before enduring a three-game losing streak. However, Wake finished strong, winning three of their final five games, including wins over Louisville and NC State, to earn a spot in a bowl game less than 100 miles from campus.
Texas A&M had an identical 7-5 record this season. but that wasn’t enough to save Kevin Sumlin’s job. The Aggies managed just one win over a team that’s going to a bowl game this year. As a result, Sumlin was fired and Texas A&M was able to lure Jimbo Fisher away from Florida State. In the meantime, interim head coach Jeff Banks, A&M’s tight ends coach under Sumlin, will lead the Aggies in the Belk Bowl.
2017 Belk Bowl Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Wake Forest -3
I’m going to lean toward the Demon Deacons in this matchup. Aside from A&M being in head coach limbo, I think Wake Forest has similar traits to the teams that the Aggies struggled against this season. Add in a little home-field advantage and I feel comfortable picking the Demon Deacons to cover a 3-point spread.
The biggest reason why I like Wake Forest in this matchup is their ability to run the ball. If you look at Texas A&M’s losses this year, most of them came in games in which their opponent ran the ball without much trouble. Obviously, the Wake Forest rushing attack isn’t on the same level as Alabama, Auburn, or LSU. But the Deacons have a talented offensive line that came on strong late in the season.
Click on the link for more free football picks from our top-rated handicappers.
Wake running back Matt Colburn only eclipsed 100 yards three times this season. But all three of those games came in the final five games of the season. That includes a 120-yard performance against a tough Notre Dame defense.
In addition to Colburn, Wake also has a mobile quarterback in John Wolford. The Aggies tended to struggle against mobile quarterbacks, most notably Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State. Wolford isn’t quite on that same level, but he’s definitely a running threat. He’s also an accurate passer who only threw six interceptions this season, making him a true dual-threat who will be difficult for the Aggies to contain.
Offensively, Nick Starkel appears to be A&M’s quarterback after taking over as the starter late in the year. He had his moments, but he’s not a running threat the way Kellen Mond is. Also, if you take away Starkel’s game against lowly New Mexico, he only had six touchdowns to five interceptions on the season.
Also, the A&M running game is average at best. Neither quarterback got enough support this year, which is why the Aggies were winless when their opponent scored more than 25 points. If this game turns into a shootout, which was more or less every Wake Forest game the second half of the season, I don’t see the Aggies being able to keep up.
Ultimately, the Demon Deacons have the more experienced quarterback and the more athletic quarterback in this game. The Aggies have enough athletes to make this a compelling game. But I think Wake Forest will eventually pull away and comfortably cover the spread.