When the season’s first BCS standings were released on Sunday, the biggest surprise was the Florida Gators being No. 2 behind Alabama. You could already hear the screams coming from Eugene, Oregon, as Ducks fans wondered how on earth the Gators could be behind UO in both human polls but ahead of them in the BCS standings. But it really doesn’t matter Ducks fans, because, obviously, if Bama and UF both run the table in the regular season they will be playing in the SEC title game.
The Gators (6-0, 5-0) might be able to lose this week against visiting South Carolina and still get to the SEC Championship Game. But it’s all-or-nothing Saturday for the Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1). Obviously, if USC loses, it would essentially be three games behind Florida in the SEC East and the Gators only have two left: vs. Georgia in Jacksonville and at home vs. Missouri. The good news for USC is that if it wins here it will be a big favorite to win out in the SEC at home vs. Tennessee and Arkansas (Carolina already beat Georgia). Currently on Sportsbook.ag, UF is +450 to win the SEC title with South Carolina at +700. Of course, Alabama is the favorite at -160.
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This is the biggest game in Gainesville since Urban Meyer left, and ESPN’s GameDay will be on campus for the first time since 2009. That year, the ESPN crew was there for when top-ranked Florida beat Florida State in the regular-season finale. Add in the return of former UF coach Steve Spurrier, and it will be a madhouse in the Swamp.
South Carolina at Florida Betting Storylines
The Gamecocks are in solid shape at No. 7 in the BCS standings after dropping out of the Top 5 in the polls with last week’s 23-21 loss at LSU – it’s hard to punish any team losing in Death Valley. It ended USC’s school-record 10-game winning streak.
The worry for South Carolina’s fans should be that the defense was essentially pushed around by a patchwork LSU offensive line. The Tigers rushed for 258 yards, outgained USC 406-211 and held the ball almost 14 minutes longer. Stud USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a non-factor with just an assisted tackle for loss. So, really, LSU did to South Carolina what the Gamecocks had done to Georgia. The Tigers also totally bottled up star RB Marcus Lattimore as he finished with 35 yards on 13 carries.
The Gators, meanwhile, got a stunning game from QB Jeff Driskel in last week’s 31-17 trap game win at Vanderbilt. Driskel was Tebwo-esque by rushing for 177 yards (school record for a QB) and three touchdowns. He had a 70-yard TD run with 2:20 left after Vandy had pulled within a touchdown. Still, UF was just 2-for-11 on third down and didn’t convert one in the second half. Its offense is very much a work in progress as UF is No. 118 nationally in passing offense.
Florida will have a handful of starters back this week. Coach Will Muschamp has said he expects linebacker Jelani Jenkins, defensive end Dominique Easley, center Jon Harrison, guard James Wilson and left tackle Xavier Nixon to play against South Carolina. Wilson, Jenkins and Easley did not against Vanderbilt (or longer), while Harrison and Nixon were injured during the game.
For the first time in the series, both teams are ranked in the Top 10 when meeting and this is the highest-ranked South Carolina-team Florida has ever faced. UF is 12-1 all-time at home vs. South Carolina. However, the Gamecocks have won two straight overall; Florida has never dropped three straight vs. USC. Last year, Carolina won 17-12 at home even though Lattimore was out with a season-ending injury. In the 2010 36-14 win in Gainesville, Lattimore gained 243 total yards and scored three touchdowns. His 40 carries that night remain a school record. No running back has gained 90 or more yards against the Gators this season.
South Carolina at Florida Betting Odds and Trends
On Sportsbook.ag, UF is a 3-point favorite with the total at 42.5. South Carolina is 6-1 ATS this season and 4-3 “over/under”. Florida is 5-1 ATS and 2-4 OU.
USC is 7-1 ATS in its past eight games after a loss. It is 6-0 ATS in its past six after an ATS win. The Gators are 2-5-1 ATS in their past eight home games. UF is 2-6 ATS in its past eight vs. teams with a winning record. The under is 9-3 in the Gamecocks’ last 12 games vs. a team with a winning record. The under is 5-1 in Florida’s past six vs. a team with a winning record. South Carolina has covered five of the past seven meetings.
College Football Predictions: South Carolina at Florida Betting Picks
How can you not take the under? The teams are tied at No. 5 in the nation in scoring defense (12.3 points per game). And they are No. 12 and 13 in yards allowed per game. Both offenses will try to pound the ball with the run and make just enough plays in the passing game to keep the other defense from selling out to stop the run.
I would say USC has the better quarterback, running back and receivers but that UF has a slight edge overall on defense. If it comes down to a game-winning kick that appears to favor Florida: Caleb Sturgis is 11-for-13 on field goals this year with a long of 51; South Carolina’s Adam Yates is 3-for-5 with a long of 38.
This is just so evenly matched I’m literally thinking of flipping a coin. I would really like to hold out and hope for 3.5 points here, but the lean is on the Gamecocks right now so the spread isn’t likely to rise. I’m still taking South Carolina and the points.
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