After two unexpected victories against Kentucky and Texas A&M as South Carolina resumed conference play, the Gamecocks will look to keep this streak alive and secure bowl eligibility Saturday afternoon against the Missouri Tigers.
USC comes into this game with a record of 4-3 against the spread and a better record of 5-2 straight up with its most recent matchup being a victory at home over Texas A&M where the defense and home crowd (contributing to eight false start penalties) were highlights.
Missouri enters this one also with a record of 4-3 against the spread, but a 3-4 record straight up. Its most recent game was a close win over Vanderbilt where the Tigers came close to blowing a 17-0 halftime lead and failed to score any points in the second half against a not so impressive Commodore defense.
Despite Missouri not necessarily passing the eye test week after week, the team has played every single conference opponent close (even Georgia), losing by no more than a possession.
Well, this week they will have to try to keep the deficit within a field goal.
South Carolina is favored over Missouri by four points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
ESPN’s FPI has a little more faith in the Gamecocks than the books do, giving them a 68.2% chance at adding another one in the win column.
The total is set at 46.5 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
The decision by Vegas to put the line at four points is honestly an interesting one because it assumes that Missouri would be favored if locations were changed, which I do not particularly agree with.
Feels very much like a trap.
The only statement victory Missouri has had in conference play was a moral victory when playing Georgia, but it sadly could not translate into the win column.
So, why is Missouri expected to keep it so close against a ranked Gamecock squad in enemy territory?
The only thing going for the Tigers is the fact that they have had South Carolina’s number in recent years, taking three straight over the Cocks.
USC’s last win over Missouri came during the monsoon game in 2018 where the legendary backup quarterback Michael Scarnecchia led the Gamecocks to a slim 37-35 victory.
So, I guess you could say South Carolina has not covered this week’s spread against the Tigers since 2017? That is probably the best thing going for them, to be honest, because even the casual sports fan could tell you there is an obvious talent gap between these two squads.
You could also say that about the games versus Auburn, Georgia and Florida, so I guess that is what landed us at four points. The books adjusted.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
Looking solely at the number here, in order to cover, South Carolina needs control.
This can’t be some close game decided by a game-winning field goal or some score to take the lead in the last few possessions.
To give Missouri some credit, that could very well happen, though, with the defense they have been playing.
The Tigers have not allowed more than 26 points against a conference opponent, so they are just three touchdowns and a two-point conversion away from covering the spread, assuming that trend continues.
Listen, I love the way the Gamecock defense has been playing of late, but the only SEC squad that has scored less than 24 points against the Cocks is Kentucky, and their quarterback was making his first college start ever.
On that note, the Gamecocks need to either shut down the Missouri offense, which starts with stopping the run because, similarly to last week, their passing games does not concern me.
Or the Cocks can aim to break Missouri’s defensive trend, which would start with the run game.
No quarterback from Auburn, Florida or Vanderbilt has passed for more than 200 yards against the Tigers with the only SEC quarterback to accomplish that being Georgia Stetson Bennett, who threw for 312 yards on a whopping 43 attempts.
So, my keys to covering are stop the run (which would hopefully stop Missouri’s offense altogether) and feed Marshawn Lloyd. I wouldn’t hate to see a Beamer Ball appearance either to help turn the tides.
What’s the better bet?
I haven’t taken the Cocks (and I’ve been wrong every time) since SC State... and I’m going to do it again.
Games with the Tigers have usually been dogfights, and I feel like that streak will continue.
I’ll take Missouri to cover but not win. So, I think you know where I’ll be going in my roundtable prediction.
The Cocks get an ugly, low-scoring dub but a win nonetheless.