On Saturday night, the Gamecocks face off against their arch-rival Clemson while elsewhere another game determines whether or not they head to Atlanta to play for the SEC East. Given the unlikelihood they would win, not many people remember this, but in 2005 South Carolina faced the same situation.
In that instance, the Georgia Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats kicked off on the JP Sports Bloody Mary Game prior to a 7pm kickoff for the Gamecocks. The Wildcats forced two straight punts from the Bulldogs, and hopes were raised when they marched down to the one-yard line on the next drive. However, for some inexplicable reason, Rich Brooks decided to kick a field goal on 4th and goal from the 1, and Georgia responded with a 10 play, 72 yard touchdown drive to claim a lead they'd never relinquish on their way to a 45-13 win. While Kentucky likely doesn't win that game no matter what happens on that play, it was deflating to see the Wildcats give up so early.
Of course, later that night, the day would go from bad to worse, as Clemson converted a fourth quarter drive against the Carolina defense and walked away with a 13-9 victory in Spurrier's first year at the helm.
Things are quite different this year for two reasons - (1) the Gamecocks are a much-improved team with a strong chance of beating Clemson on Saturday, and (2) instead of Kentucky, the Gamecocks send Texas A&M as their proxy to try to grab a road win over their SEC East rivals, the Missouri Tigers.
So what are the odds for a total victory on Saturday, or a total collapse, or something in between? We can use the money line betting from Pinnacle Sports to determine the market perception. By taking the odds, and then removing the juice that the book takes, we're left with the following odds for the two relevant Saturday games:
That leaves us with the following likelihoods of the four scenarios that could play out on Saturday:
|USC / A&M||23.7%|
|USC / MIZ||42.6%|
|Clem / A&M||12.0%|
|Clem / MIZ||21.6%|
As you can see, the odds that Carolina has a perfect evening aren't great - about one in four. But the odds that everything goes wrong are pretty bad as well - only one in five. It's slightly more likely than not that the Gamecocks will get a split decision on Saturday evening - either a trip to Atlanta riding a one-game losing streak, or a ten-win season that ends in yet another 6-2 SEC record that's not good enough to get a shot at the SEC West champions.
One thing is for sure - given the ability of all four teams involved on Saturday, there's no sure thing. It'll be a wild few hours for Gamecock Nation.