Coming off a win that was uncomfortable for Gamecock fans basically from start to finish, South Carolina is looking to secure an unlikely W on the road against the Texas A&M Aggies.
USC started the season pretty well against the spread going undefeated through the first three weeks, but the Gamecocks have cooled down since, failing to cover in three of their last four games. South Carolina currently stands at 3-3-1 versus the number and 4-3 overall.
The Aggies (5-2) are coming into this contest rather hot after slaying the king of college football that is Alabama two weeks ago and blowing out Missouri last week. Texas A&M is 4-3 against the spread and have covered against SEC opponents only twice, which just so happen to be the program’s last two games.
Anyway, the oddsmakers have pinned Texas A&M as a 19.5-point favorite against South Carolina, according to VegasInsider.com. Some books have the line as high as 20.5 points.
ESPN’s FPI gives the Gamecocks a 10.6% chance of victory versus the Aggies.
The over/under is set at 45.
Why was the line set at this number?
I honestly expected the line to be a bit larger, and we’ve even seen some slight movement since it opened in favor of the Aggies.
These teams actually played each other rather closely from 2015 to 2018, but it’s been ugly since then. In the last two matchups, the Aggies have blown out the Cocks by 24 points and — most recently — 45 points. Ouch.
Everyone has also heard enough about how South Carolina hasn’t even won a game yet against Texas A&M, but winning isn’t really an expectation here, or at least this season.
The thing that shocked me was how Texas A&M beat Missouri on the road last week by 21 last week, and Vegas is apparently expecting a similar outcome with the Aggies back in College Station.
Comparing two teams like that doesn’t make much sense and I get it, but what is there with the Gamecocks that would give you confidence that they will cover a 19.5-point spread?
South Carolina’s weakness is run defense, and they will have a tall task this week in containing Isaiah Spiller. Texas A&M’s weakness (and I’m really reaching here) is its pass defense, and the Gamecocks are a running team for the most part.
I’m going to close this section by additionally voicing my disagreement with the total being at 45. I don’t think it’s out of the question for Texas A&M to drop at least 45, period, so hammering the over here looks like a must.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
It was brought up briefly in the last section, but I believe one of the keys to covering here is to have a successful pass game.
With Doty now out for the year, I expect it to actually get a boost with the more accurate Zeb Noland running the show for the remainder of the season.
The defense will also need to show up.
In each of Texas A&M’s losses this season, they were held to 22 point or less. Isaiah Spiller was also held to 100 rushing yards or less.
I would be shocked if I look at the box score and see Aggie quarterback Zach Calzada pass for more than 250 yards, so it does help that Texas A&M is rather one-dimensional.
Turnovers kill, too, and the Gamecocks have had 11 total in the games that Luke Doty started. I cannot control the fumbles and other mishaps that happened which didn’t involve Doty, but I view Noland as a smarter, more experienced quarterback who will get those numbers down.
So, if Noland is able to have some success through the air (like 250 yards and two touchdowns), the Gamecocks zero in on containing the run by not allowing Spiller to go off and the Gamecocks have a turnover-free game or close to it, South Carolina has a chance to make this thing close.
Again, this is an ideal situation that probably won’t happen, though.
What’s the better bet?
I think seven games is enough of a sample size to see that USC doesn’t necessarily learn from its mistakes, or they address some while others arise.
Will the Gamecocks actually contain Spiller while also limiting turnovers and penalties? I do not think so, but that is what’s needed to cover.
I’m still in wait and see mode here. The reason why I picked the Gamecocks to cover against Georgia was because it’s pretty hard to not cover a 31.5-point spread no matter how terrible your team is.
A spread of 21 is very doable for the Aggies, especially for a team that is clicking as much as them.
I’m taking Texas A&M straight up and ATS in a victory somewhere in the 24 to 35-point range.
On the bright side, at least we’ll have the bye week to get over it!