After last week’s domination at home against the Eastern Illinois Panthers, the Gamecocks are set to travel to Greenville, North Carolina this Saturday for a rare road non-conference matinee against East Carolina.
South Carolina is coming into this contest with morale seemingly through the roof in addition to a 1-0 record against the spread and straight up. This will likely be the first real test for the Gamecocks in the Shane Beamer era.
Things could be better for East Carolina after dropping its season opener to Appalachian State - an opponent that we’ve seen compete and be ranked in recent years.
With the Pirates giving up 33 points to the Mountaineers and knowing how suspect the Gamecock defense was in 2020, we could be in for a shootout.
South Carolina is currently pinned as a two-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.com, with the line having moved all over the place in the last few days. Some books still have East Carolina favored, but no matter the book, the majority of the money is on the Gamecocks.
ESPN’s FPI gives South Carolina a 71% chance of victory, which sounds a little bit generous considering where the line is currently at.
The over/under is set at 58.
Why was the line set at this number?
I believe Vegas views this game basically as a pick ‘em because we still don’t know where either of these teams are truly at after Week 1.
Will South Carolina continue to be that well-oiled machine we saw Saturday night or will the team return to how they looked late in 2020? Is Appalachian State *that* good or is East Carolina *that* bad after a rough showing for the Pirates last week?
Also, a big SEC school doesn’t go on the road to visit a team from the AAC — or any similar conference — very often (I still don’t know who green-lighted this decision). In a game where South Carolina may have a slight edge on a neutral field, a few points must have been thrown East Carolina’s way for playing in front of the home fans.
Even with the home field advantage, the Pirates didn’t really take advantage of it last season, going 1-3 at home.
At this point, there really isn’t any reason to heavily lean one team over the other, and the oddsmakers agree.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
I want to see that success in the red zone continue against East Carolina.
If the Gamecocks are driving, they can’t settle for field goals. Going off a small sample size, it seems that Shane Beamer likes keeping the offense on the field for fourth down more than most, and that aggressiveness will only help them down the road.
And hey, the Cocks were 3 for 3 on fourth down conversions and only settled for one field goal in the red zone last week.
Also, East Carolina’s big weakness is South Carolina’s strength.
The Pirates allowed 226 RUSHING YARDS last week. If that trend continues, the Gamecock running backs will eat and take some pressure off of Luke Doty in his first game back (if he’s good to go).
Additionally, I get the game got out of hand early, but East Carolina abandoned the run game very quickly last week. Whether it was game flow or a lack of confidence in the backfield, a one-dimensional offense can only help the opposing defense out.
They didn’t necessarily throw the ball well either. East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers may have had 295 passing yards, but it was on 40 attempts where he completed only 55% of them (not good). He threw one interception, too.
If the Gamecock are able to put up some points and quick, I can see East Carolina folding.
What’s the better bet?
I think you all know where I’m going after reading this.
South Carolina is going to take this one in my mind. They are set up on offense very similarly to Appalachian State by having an emphasis on the run, and we saw how that worked out for the Pirates.
As long as the Gamecock defense doesn’t make this a shootout (they very well could, but I don’t believe they will), I have South Carolina in a 10 to 14-point victory where they have control basically throughout.
Things won’t be as perfect as last week, but the winning will continue.