Following a stress-free bye week for South Carolina (and its fans), the Gamecocks will be returning to Williams-Brice Stadium this Saturday for a game under the lights against the Florida Gators.
USC enters this week with a 4-4 record straight up and a slightly worse 3-4-1 record against the spread with its most recent contest being a brutal loss in both categories to Texas A&M two weeks ago.
Florida is equally as desperate for a victory here having gone almost a month since last entering the win column (Oct. 10 vs. Vanderbilt). The Gators — like the Cocks — also have a 4-4 record, but they actually have a worse record against the spread coming in at 3-5.
Additionally, Florida has yet to cover on the road this season. With South Carolina dropping four of its last five versus the number, one of those streaks will inevitably come to a close this weekend.
The oddsmakers have pinned the Gators as 18-point favorites against the Gamecocks, according to VegasInsider.com. Some large books — such as FanDuel, DraftKings and MGM — have the spread as high as 18.5 points. Those numbers are also slight dips from where the line opened (20 points).
ESPN’s FPI gives South Carolina a 15% chance of victory versus Florida.
The over/under is set at 52.5 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the reasons, but I do see why the line was set at 18 points in favor of the Gators.
First, Florida is coming into this game relatively cold. They were massacred by Georgia and were beaten close by an up and down LSU team. So, this is probably the lowest Vegas will be viewing them all year.
Also, if you have uncertainty at your quarterback position, you have uncertainty in your program as a whole in most cases. Is their guy Anthony Richardson or Emory Jones? What looks certain is the fact that the product isn’t necessarily fantastic with either one.
They are both turnover prone with Jones throwing nine picks on the years in addition to Richardson’s five. If there’s one positive about this Gamecock defense, it’s that they love forcing turnovers. They also have the man leading the nation in interceptions, Jaylan Foster.
While the Gamecocks have definite offensive woes of their own, Florida will likely be giving the ball back on multiple occasions.
Finally, I couldn’t tell you why but no matter the state of either of these programs, they always play generally close games against each other.
There has not been a final score differential of more than 14 between these teams since 2012! Even last season! In Columbia, there has not been a final score differential of more than 11 since 2007!
South Carolina definitely deserves to be dogs of at least 20 points, but there are many aspects likely preventing Vegas from doing that.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
It’s really hard to put points on the board when your quarterback, no matter how mobile, only has three seconds to work with before getting tossed to the ground!
I get Texas A&M is a pretty impressive squad, but this Florida defense USC will be dealing with on Saturday is not that big of a step down from the Aggies in terms of its ability to apply pressure.
For reference, Texas A&M had three sacks, seven tackles for loss and three QB hurries against South Carolina two weeks ago while Florida had two sacks, seven tackles for loss and six QB hurries against... Alabama.
What that tells me is this Gamecock offense will be witnessing a lot of the same this Saturday unless the offensive line experiences some drastic changes or a five-star lineman magically appears midseason out of thin air.
It’s hard to win a football game when your defense is on the field constantly, so my one and only key for the game is for the offensive line to protect the QB and maybe even open up some holes for the team’s talented running backs.
Obviously there are many things needed to cover against a team like Florida, but unless the defense scores a few touchdowns by itself, covering shouldn’t even be a thought without this problem being fixed.
What’s the better bet?
The trends are begging me to take the Gamecocks.
Florida is still looking for its first win this season ATS on the road, Florida gives the ball away almost twice as much as they take it away and they allow an average of 22.8 points per game — a number I’m sure Gamecock fans would love to see their team achieve.
That and these teams play each other close, like I said previously.
Having watched the Gamecocks all year, I still think 18 points is way too little.
This is a Florida team that hung with Alabama and killed Tennessee. Now the Gators are going to struggle against a South Carolina squad that barely got past Vanderbilt? C’mon.
I’m taking Florida to win straight up and ATS somewhere in the 24 to 35-point range.