Usually, people talk about lightning not striking twice, but now that South Carolina took down Tennessee and Clemson (at Clemson) in consecutive weeks, what happens when lightning strikes three times?
USC has a chance to make it three consecutive victories over ranked opponents in as many games this Friday afternoon when the Gamecocks travel to Jacksonville to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.
It will be the first time these two schools will be meeting up since 1984.
Although the Cocks have been playing well recently on paper, the hype has chilled down a bit following an outcry from fans following the hire of Dowell Loggains to be the team’s new offensive coordinator (because fans are apparently never happy with who the team has calling the plays) and key players putting their names in the transfer portal.
Shane Beamer has since extinguished some of that fire due to a successful signing day and a positive press conference shortly after the hire.
As for performance on the field, South Carolina enters this contest with an 8-4 record overall and a slightly worse 7-5 record against the spread with hopes of upping those win column numbers by one.
Notre Dame is coming into this one with an identical record of 8-4 straight up and a 6-6 record ATS. The Irish have not been blessed with as happy of an ending to the regular season as the Gamecocks, however.
The last time we saw Notre Dame take the field, they got their teeth kicked in by the other USC in Los Angeles, 38-27, with the final score looking a whole lot better than the result we saw on the field.
A sad reality for each squad, though? Both South Carolina and Notre Dame will be without key players for this one.
Apparently, all of this adds up to a close win for the Irish in the eyes of the oddsmakers.
Notre Dame is favored over South Carolina by 2.5 points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
ESPN’s FPI largely disagrees with the spread, giving the Irish a 67.6% shot at securing another bowl victory.
The total is set at 51 points.
Why was the line set at this number?
When was the last time we saw a team not among the Alabamas, the Clemsons or the Georgias of college football go on a heater like what we have seen South Carolina go on over these past two games?
Beating a ranked team is usually thought of as an accomplishment, not an example of normalcy, and if the Cocks pull this off, it will be a streak that is anything but normal.
In my mind, Vegas is betting on South Carolina becoming South Carolina again. That and the Gamecocks are doing far worse when it comes to who they will be without than Notre Dame.
The Irish — most notably – will operate without quarterback Drew Pyne and tight end Michael Mayer. So, a very run-heavy squad will adjust to those losses by… running the ball.
And it’s not like they will suffer at quarterback, either.
Tyler Buchner will likely earn the start for Notre Dame, who opened the year as QB1 and was in that role for losses to Ohio State and Marshall.
Basically, the Irish will be going with a guy who has at least started for this team before, although he isn’t anything special at the position.
South Carolina will have to do some adjusting, though.
USC – a team that loves its two tight end sets — will be without three of its top four tight ends (most notedly Jaheim Bell), its starting running back, its second-best wide receiver and long-time starting offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum.
They WILL have both Spencer Rattler and “Juice” Wells, though, who are both trying to have stellar games with hopes of improving their draft stocks, if they choose to head in that direction following this season.
Let’s just hope Rattler doesn’t try to be superman, knowing so much will be on the line for him.
In all, I think Vegas got this line right.
I don’t believe either team has shown any reasons why they should be favored by more than a few points, and, at this point in time, I’d give a slight edge to Notre Dame.
What will have to happen for the Gamecocks to cover?
Notre Dame is a squad that, in my opinion, lives and dies by the run.
If the Irish run for at least 130 yards, they are 7-1 football team. When they don’t accomplish that, the losses stacked up a bit more.
As shown by his performances against Ohio State and Marshall, Tyler Buchner doesn’t exactly scare me, so I would be content with letting him go to work if it meant the run game taking a back seat… because we all know how South Carolina fares against the run.
Offensively, the Gamecocks need to hope that these opt outs don’t kill the momentum this squad built.
Yes, Wells will still be in the lineup, but the Vann injury presents a rather large pair of shoes to fill, especially because Brooks and Stogner will also be sitting this one out.
If Rattler wants to prove he belongs in the NFL this year, and that is what he is trying to do by playing in this game, he needs to carry this shell of USC’s offense to victory.
The Irish pass defense does scare me a bit, though. Only two quarterbacks (Drake Maye from UNC and Tanner McKee from Stanford) have thrown for more than 250 yards against Notre Dame.
If Rattler cannot be that guy, it may be the Beal-Smith (if he suits up) and McDowell show.
So, my keys to covering are taking what the defense gives them, shutting down the run and playing a clean game.
What’s the better bet?
I don’t feel confident about either side here because, well, both teams are without many of the players that got them here.
I feel like South Carolina should have the advantage on paper because of the tear they’ve been on, having the better quarterback, recent bowl success and simply having more to play for, but I have some reservations.
Notre Dame has the ability to run all over this Gamecock defense and shut down Rattler.
Either way, I feel like the game will be tight, and a blowout will not be in the cards for either team.
Give me Notre Dame by three to seven points.