After achieving bowl eligibility last weekend with an unexpected win over Auburn, South Carolina is looking to conclude its regular season on a high note this Saturday night against the Clemson Tigers.
The Gamecocks currently have a 6-5 record overall and an even 5-5-1 record against the spread.
What has become a more popular story as of late is this team’s home success, which is where they will be playing this weekend. The Cocks have a 5-1 record straight up and a 4-2 record against the spread when playing at Williams-Brice Stadium with Kentucky handing them a loss in both categories and Vanderbilt being the second loss ATS.
Clemson has been an overall disappointment this season, and that sentiment only gets worse when applied to gambling.
The Tigers may be 8-3 straight up on the year, but they are 3-8 versus the number. While that record is undoubtedly ugly, all three of those wins ATS occurred over the last four weeks. So, you could say the Gamecocks will be playing a relatively hot Clemson squad that has finally found its mojo.
Despite that, Vegas believes this will be the closest game between these two teams since 2015.
Clemson is currently pinned as an 11.5-point favorite over South Carolina, according to VegasInsider.com. The line opened with Clemson being favored by 14 points, but once again, it shifted a few points in the Gamecocks’ direction.
ESPN’s FPI gives South Carolina a 19% chance of claiming the dub in this year’s Palmetto Bowl.
The over/under is set at 43 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
Does the line make sense? Yes. Do I agree with it? Nope.
To start, oddsmakers are basically viewing Clemson as a team that is four points better than Auburn, who was favored by 7.5 points last week against the Gamecocks. With Clemson having played an up-and-down season in the ACC and Auburn having beaten ranked teams like Ole Miss and Arkansas in the SEC, I don’t really know how that makes sense. Even without Bo Nix, I still believe those two teams are pretty close in quality.
Also, I’m starting to buy into the whole home dominance thing.
South Carolina has allowed an impressive 14.5 points per game in Columbia this year, and it’s not like they have yet to play a quality team there either. Kentucky scored 42 points against Tennessee, but could only put together 16 against the Gamecocks. Florida scored 42 points at LSU, but could only drop 17 on USC. Auburn scored 38 points at Arkansas, but could only muster 17 in Columbia.
It’s no longer a secret. It’s tough to play at Williams-Brice Stadium.
To make matter worse, Clemson has allowed 23 PPG on the road this season with the lowest point total being 14 points allowed versus Syracuse. If the Gamecocks are just average... Clemson needs to score five touchdowns to cover the spread? Hell, if they even match that low of 14, Clemson needs to beat USC’s average points allowed at home by 11.5 points? The Tigers scored more than 21 points on the road only once this year, so I feel like that’s a bit much to ask.
Having Clemson as a seven-point favorite would have made much more sense, at least to me.
In the end, Vegas knows all, and this will likely blow up in my face like it did with Auburn last week.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
I have three keys to covering this week: protect the football, force D.J. Uiagalelei to make mistakes and stop the run.
Up until four games ago, Clemson was struggling to score against just about anyone. Even now, quarterback play has left much to be desired for the Tigers, and Uiagalelei has been a bit of a let-down. When facing an offense like that, giving away free points or favorable field position would undoubtedly be a recipe for failure.
It’s also no secret that Clemson has a pretty stout defense. Jason Brown will struggle. No matter how poorly he may play, he needs to avoid doing the defense any favors.
On the other side, Uiagalelei has thrown eight picks in 11 games, so he’s due for at least one on Saturday against a team with 23 takeaways on the year.
I’m sure the Cocks would prefer he beat them than the two Clemson running backs that combined for 303 yards rushing against Wake Forest last week.
What’s the better bet?
You probably picked up on it by now, but I will be taking the points with South Carolina.
A week ago, I probably wouldn’t have leaned this way, but this Gamecock squad proved against Auburn that it has what it takes to perform under the bright lights.
My winner of the game and margin will be revealed in the Roundtable Predictions!
Now let’s just hope this isn’t another one of those classic letdown spots for the Cocks...