You really can’t criticize any SEC team for scheduling a cupcake nonconference schedule these days. For example, look at LSU’s conference schedule. The Tigers played and lost at No. 10 Florida last week, host No. 3 South Carolina this week, then have to go to No. 22 Texas A&M, host No. 1 Alabama and host No. 19 Mississippi State. That’s borderline criminal.
The Tigers dropped from No. 4 in the polls to No. 9 with the 14-6 loss at Florida, which ended LSU’s national-best 17-game regular-season winning streak. One more loss and the Tigers can forget about a return trip to Atlanta this winter, much less getting back to the National Championship Game. The defeat dropped LSU to +600 on Sportsbook.ag to win the SEC and to +1800 to win the national title.
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It’s not quite the deathmarch for the Gamecocks. They routed No. 5 Georgia last week, then they have this huge test on Saturday before visiting No. 4 Florida the following week in a game that could well determine which of those two teams has to play Alabama or LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
The Gamecocks jumped from No. 6 in the polls to No. 3 with their incredibly impressive 35-7 win over Georgia last week. This is the highest USC has been ranked since reaching No. 2 in 1984. Its odds to win the SEC are now +300 (second favorite to the Tide) and +700 to win the national title. South Carolina’s 10-game winning streak is the longest in the nation and a school record. The Gamecocks are 6-0 for the first time since 1988.
LSU has dominated this series to the tune of 16-3-1 all-time and 10-1 in Baton Rouge, but the schools haven’t played since 2008. USC coach Steve Spurrier used to own LSU while at Florida as he has an 11-3 mark vs. the Tigers.
South Carolina at LSU Betting Storylines
This should be easily the biggest defensive battle out of Saturday’s slate of games. LSU’s defense played well enough to win last week and has perhaps the top overall defensive line in the nation. It held Florida to 237 total yards, forced two turnovers and had five sacks. But the Tigers’ offense is terrible, at least against good competition. The Tigers rushed 25 times for 42 yards against UF and converted 1-of-13 first downs, while starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger was 11-of-25 passing for 158 yards. He hasn’t come close to living up to expectations. LSU finished with a season-low 200 yards and eight first downs and was on the field for just 50 plays. In its last three games against SEC opponents (also Auburn this year and Alabama in last year’s BCS title game), LSU has one touchdown and 18 points.
Meanwhile, Georgia had the SEC’s top offense heading into the LSU game and had scored 40 or more points in its first five games (a school record) and averaged 536 yards. The Dawgs only scored vs. USC with 1:55 to play against mostly South Carolina reserves. Georgia finished with 224 total yards, its fewest since 2006. UGA gained 80 yards on 26 first-down plays after entering leading the nation with 9.6 yards per play on first down. The Gamecocks have allowed six touchdowns all season, and three have been meaningless garbage-time scores. It is No. 4 nationally in scoring defense and has a whopping 25 sacks. End Jadeveon Clowney might be the most disruptive defensive player in the land, and he’s probably the lock No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft (he’s a true sophomore so can’t leave after this season).
In my mind the difference here is that USC has a QB it can trust in Connor Shaw. He doesn’t have big numbers but is completing better than 75 percent of his throws with just two interceptions. Since taking over for Stephen Garcia in the middle of last season, Shaw has gone 13-1 as South Carolina's starter. And, of course, USC has one of the nation’s top running backs in Marcus Lattimore, who had his third 100-yard game of the season vs. the Dawgs. He has also found the end zone in every game this season. LSU couldn’t slow UF tailback Mike Gillislee last week as he gained 146 yards on 34 carries, including 112 on 12 carries in the second half.
South Carolina at LSU Betting Odds and Trends
At BookMaker, LSU is a 2.5-point favorite with the total at 40. South Carolina is 5-1 ATS this season and 3-3 “over/under”. LSU is 2-4 ATS and 2-3 O/U.
USC is 7-0 ATS in its past seven after a win. It has covered six straight vs. teams with a winning record. LSU has covered just two of its past seven games. It is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 SEC games. The under is 4-1 in South Carolina’s past five SEC games. The under is 5-2 in LSU’s past seven games vs. teams with a winning record.
College Football Predictions: South Carolina at LSU Picks
It’s nearly impossible to win in Baton Rouge, especially at night. LSU has won a school-record and nation-best 21 straight home games, the past 10 by double-figures. The Tigers also are 17-1 under Les Miles in games following a loss, including 6-0 when a road loss is followed by a game in Tiger Stadium. LSU hasn’t lost back-to-back games during the month of October since 1999 and is 35-1 in Saturday night home games under Miles.
Many people are saying this is the biggest regular-season spotlight game for South Carolina since it upset No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9, 2010, in Columbia. The next week, USC lost at Kentucky. Spurrier says his team has learned from that. If this game were at South Carolina or even a neutral site, I’d have to go USC. But take LSU at home (some books have the Tigers giving three points; that probably ends in a push) and the under.
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