Following last week’s expected blowout in Athens, USC is setting its sights on Kentucky as the team returns to Columbia for a game under the lights this Saturday night.
The Gamecocks remain undefeated against the spread this season with a record of 2-0-1 but are slightly worse straight up with a 2-1 record.
Kentucky is coming into this matchup at 2-1 against the spread but 3-0 on the year with its most recent victory over Chattanooga being shockingly close. The Wildcats were predicted to dominate Chattanooga by a whopping 33 points but could only secure the victory by five.
So, both teams are really in similar positions coming into this one: two morale-boosting wins in the first two games and a third that humbled the teams quite a bit.
As we enter Week 4, the Wildcats are currently favored against the Gamecocks by five points, according to VegasInsider.com. The line has shifted a whole point in favor of South Carolina since opening at six points.
ESPN’s FPI gives South Carolina a 56% chance of victory, which actually disagrees completely with the spread, having USC most likely coming out on top.
The over/under is set at 48.5 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
Attempting to be as unbiased as I can, I think this line was an overreaction by the oddsmakers. They probably saw the disappointment by Kentucky last weekend and are making them out to be worse than they actually are.
If scores told the whole story, Chattanooga lost by five to Kentucky while Missouri lost by seven, so Chattanooga must be better! That’s obviously not the case.
The Wildcats probably fell victim to a bit of overconfidence (as many teams do), underestimated them and sleepwalked into the game.
That may happen with a team like Chattanooga, but I can promise you it won’t in a SEC game. This squad will give USC all they have.
Although Kentucky has been home for the last three weeks, they have looked like a really solid team. I can’t really say the same about the Gamecocks.
Some of the mishaps we saw against East Carolina and Georgia cannot happen if South Carolina wants to really compete against a team that I view as superior through three weeks.
Kentucky has won six of seven against the Cocks with the most recent game being a 41-18 Wildcat blowout last December.
We’ve seen Kentucky respond well after bad showings in the past, and I am sadly expecting to see that again.
Some may disagree, but I think Vegas got this spread wrong here.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
South Carolina covering the spread is not outside the realm of possibility, although I do view it as unlikely.
What scares me a bit is how Kentucky has shown dominance with both the running and passing facets of its offense. It’s not like the Gamecocks can game plan for just one.
If there is something USC can prepare for, it is Kentucky turnovers. Quarterback Will Levis has thrown at least one pick every game this season, so the Cocks can likely bank on at least one handout.
Sticking with the passing subject here, it’s no secret that the South Carolina secondary has gotten shredded over the past two weeks. Whether it be the big play or them blowing a third down stop opportunity, that has been an issue.
If that has been an emphasis in practice and we see some progress made in the pass defense, the game may stay relatively close.
Another Gamecock weakness has been the offensive line. At least its toughest task is already in the past! The Wildcat defense is not bad by any means, but it also failed to log a single sack against Chattanooga and got only one against Missouri.
Luke Doty will have a lot more time to throw this week, and giving the offense more time to work will only help.
To conclude, my keys to covering are force some turnovers, eliminate the big play and protect Doty. If all those things happen, I can envision a close game. If not, things have the potential to get out of hand in South Carolina’s second conference contest of the season.
What’s the better bet?
Kentucky dominates South Carolina, and this looks like a good year for the Wildcats and an off one for the Gamecocks.
The Kentucky team we saw last week will not show up to Williams-Brice Stadium this Saturday.
It’ll be nice to have the home fans to support the team, but I just don’t think it’ll be enough.
There is nothing I would love more to be wrong here, but I’m taking Kentucky to cover with a win somewhere between 14 and 21 points.