The odds column is back following a one-week hiatus due to a Thursday night game where the line dropped surprisingly late in the week and turnaround would have been very difficult.
As the Saturday games return, so does SEC play.
After a two-game detour from the conference slate that saw USC take care of business on both sides of the ball against below average Charlotte and SC State squads, South Carolina sets its sights on the Kentucky Wildcats as the Gamecocks travel to Lexington — a location the Cocks haven’t left victorious since 2012 — for a game under the lights this Saturday night.
The Gamecocks enter game six of the regular season with a record of 2-3 against the spread (the SC State line closed at +40.5 at many books...) but a record of 3-2 straight up.
South Carolina’s most recent game was, of course, the home victory against SC State that I would describe mainly as a battle of men against boys.
On the flip side, Kentucky is an impressive 4-1 both ATS and straight up.
For the first time all year, Kentucky looked human last week against Ole Miss, though.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis did not perform terribly on the stat sheet — passing for 220 yards and two touchdowns — but he did crumble under pressure a bit, fumbling on the last two drives deep in Ole Miss territory to seal the team’s fate.
It was also the first time all year the Wildcats failed to score at least 26 points.
Did Vegas perhaps overreact in the making of this line? Well, that is your call to make, and your money to gamble.
Kentucky is favored against South Carolina by 9.5 points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
ESPN’s FPI gives the Gamecocks a 24% chance of securing the dub on Saturday night.
The total is set at 49 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
I think the line is much lower than it should be.
The Gamecocks performed poorly in SEC play through two games, losing by 14 to Arkansas and 41 to Georgia (with that loss only looking worse now after playing Missouri close on Saturday).
Kentucky also beat Florida by 10 on the road and probably should have beaten Ole Miss last week.
To be brutally honest, South Carolina has not proven anything against a respectable team thus far in 2022, so I don’t know why the Cocks have earned the respect of Vegas this week against one of the best teams in the country... on the road!
Kentucky has beaten he Cocks by more than 10 three of the past five years and has done it two of the past three matchups in Lexington.
Also, I’m going to keep saying it until they prove me wrong, but the Gamecocks are 1-7-1 ATS in their last nine road games!
The only way I can explain the line is to say perhaps Vegas overreacted to a mediocre performance by Kentucky last week and fantastic performances against dreadful teams over the past two weeks by South Carolina.
A ranked squad at home against USC should yield at least a 14-point spread, but we’ll see how this one goes.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
To start, the Gamecock defense shut down Levis in Columbia just one year ago. So, hopefully it will be as easy as taking a page out of that book, rinsing and repeating.
He completed 15-of-22 passes for 102 yards, threw a pick and did not contribute any touchdowns.
The only issue last year was South Carolina’s offense, which couldn’t take advantage of the defense’s masterful performance. The bad news is things don’t seem to have changed that much defensively for the Wildcats, holding Florida to 16 points and Ole Miss to 22.
Thankfully, the heading of this section reads “cover” and not “win.”
If the Cocks manage to repeat last season’s defensive domination, no matter how many points they put up, a cover should be in play.
That brings me to my next key to covering. How about we score some points?
Kentucky’s weak spot defensively is against the run, giving up an average of 161 yards on the ground against Florida and Ole Miss.
Luckily, Marshawn Lloyd has enjoyed a bit of a coming out party these last two weeks, scoring a total of five touchdowns while averaging 9.6 yards per carry.
If the offensive line keeps its quality play up, the fate of South Carolina may rest on Lloyd’s shoulders not because I don’t believe in Spencer Rattler, but because Kentucky has killed quarterbacks in conference play.
The Wildcat defense has held Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson to 143 yards, completing 40% of his passing attempts and Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart to 213 yards, completing 51.7% of his attempts.
Both of those teams opted to run the ball, and I suggest the Cocks do the same.
What’s the better bet?
Following last week’s apparent loss ATS, my record now falls to 3-2 on the year.
I’m aware I spent 75% of this article telling you how according to logic, Kentucky will have no problem covering, but I’m actually going with the Cocks here.
I believe the defense turns Kentucky over a few times, creating some short-field opportunities, and picks up where it left off in 2021.
To me, I don’t see Kentucky scoring more than 24, so all South Carolina needs is two touchdowns, which I don’t view as some insane request.
Am I calling for a win? No, but I think USC can keep it between three and 10 points (I predict the spread to move there by closing time).