Week 2 was one of the biggest highs this team has witnessed in quite some time. Despite the success, Las Vegas still sees South Carolina being humbled this Saturday afternoon by Alabama.
The Gamecocks are currently 25.5-point dogs, with some books setting their lines as high as 26 points in favor of the Crimson Tide.
The opening line was set at 24 points, so bets are definitely trending toward an Alabama cover.
Why was the line set at this number?
Considering Alabama was favored by 34.5-points against Duke and 55 points against New Mexico State, Vegas views South Carolina as a step above Duke when you put into consideration that Alabama is traveling this week.
Typically a team is given a few points just for being home in front of their fans, so if this game were in Alabama, I would expect the line to be closer to 30.
When digesting that information, my take is that Vegas is more pro-Bama now (if that is even possible) than they were when the season kicked off or they are sleeping on the Gamecocks because I view South Carolina as a much better program on paper than Duke.
That or they are skeptical of Ryan Hilinski heading into his first real test since being in his new role, which is understandable.
Additionally, the Gamecocks gave up 24 to UNC Week 1 and I don’t think it’s a secret that Alabama has a more potent offense than the Tar Heels.
With that in mind, Vegas most likely sees Alabama dropping 30+ with ease and the Gamecocks struggling to score, or the Gamecocks scoring some garbage time points and Alabama dropping 40+.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
South Carolina’s road to success is easy: keep the game low-scoring and try to force Tua Tagovailoa to make mistakes.
If this game is a defensive battle, which I don’t expect but I would certainly welcome, covering won’t be an issue.
The Gamecocks also can’t let this game get out of hand by turning the ball over in their own territory thus giving Alabama a short field to work with.
They have to try to force Alabama to start their drives around the 20-yard line.
Also, if they put some pressure on a generally smart quarterback like Tua and force some turnovers, that would likely translate to a tight game.
What’s the better bet?
I always try to convince myself that the Gamecocks have a shot in games like these and I always seem to end up disappointed.
There is one thing, though, that is giving me hope: Ryan Hilinski.
Jake Bentley used to play like the bright lights were too much for him (except for his best game as a Gamecock last year against Clemson), being careless with the ball, but I see a much smarter quarterback in Hilinski.
He is a quarterback that I know won’t lose you the game, but I don’t know yet if he has the ice to win the big games either.
I also don’t see Alabama orchestrating more than five 70-yard drives, assuming no drastic mistakes are made.
I expect a loss for the Gamecocks in the 7-24 point range, but a win against the spread in a game that makes the fans leave with a smile.