Following yet another (painful) SEC loss, the Gamecocks are looking to rebound this Saturday afternoon in a very winnable game at home against Vanderbilt.
USC is coming into this contest 3-3 overall and 3-2-1 against the spread while Vanderbilt is an even worse 2-4 straight up and 1-5 versus the number.
Both squads are entering this game rather cold as well. The Cocks most recently dropped a game to Tennessee where they were out of it in the first quarter, and the Commodores once again failed to put any points on the board for the second time in three weeks.
Although the Gamecocks have had their fair share of struggles, this Vanderbilt team makes USC look more like Georgia, and Vegas appears to agree.
South Carolina is currently favored over Vanderbilt by 18 points, according to VegasInsider.com. The line has also moved a bit in South Carolina’s direction after opening at 16 points.
ESPN’s FPI gives the Gamecocks a 92.6% chance of victory against the Commodores.
The over/under is set at 50.5 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
With Vanderbilt continuing to struggle against the spread to this extent, it is hard to defend setting the line at anything but a number this large, even versus a middling team like the Gamecocks.
Putting both teams’ strengths and weaknesses into consideration, we know the Cocks excel defensively (with the exception of the Georgia game and the first half of last week’s game) and Vanderbilt struggles in basically all areas.
The Commodores haven’t allowed any less than 21 points all season and average a meager 13.3 PPG.
Assuming South Carolina’s offense hovers around that 21-point floor and the defense is above average, that’s already around a double-digit predicted score difference.
The spread is likely assuming the offense comes to life this time around or the defense contributes some points itself as it has in three games this season.
I do think the point total is a bit high, though, for a game featuring two mediocre offenses.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
We will need to see an offensive rejuvenation in the Cocks for them to have any chance of covering the spread, and if there is any game that could help cure those woes, it will likely be this one.
Assuming the Commodores don’t score more than 10 points, which I think is fair, that means the Gamecocks need to score at least 28.
Keeping in mind South Carolina has scored more than 20 points only twice this season and both those games featured a defensive touchdown, that does look like a tall task to ask of them.
I then took a look at the 13 turnovers forced by the Gamecock defense this season and the fact that Vanderbilt quarterback Ken Seals has thrown a pick in every game but one all year.
There will be mistakes made by the Commodores, and that will likely result in short fields or even points for South Carolina.
So, my keys to covering are jumpstarting the offense preferably by way of the run because that’s where success has been had, forcing turnovers that will later turn into scores and allowing no more than 10 points from Vanderbilt.
What’s the better bet?
When Vanderbilt is supposed to get killed, they usually do.
The Commodores have failed to cover a spread when they are underdogs by at least 18 points.
On the flip side, South Carolina only has one loss against the number at home on the year, and it was a close loss to Kentucky.
This is a bad Vanderbilt team and a hungry South Carolina one that is eager to shake off that rough loss on the road to Tennessee.
USC has also beaten Vanderbilt by more than 18 points two times in the last three years.
Even if the Gamecocks don’t cover, I guarantee they will be close to the number.
I’m taking the Gamecocks straight up and against the spread somewhere in the 21 to 28-point range.