Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks Expert Picks with Odds and Predictions
Kentucky Wildcats at South Carolina Gamecocks, 7:30 p.m., Saturday Sept. 16
Would you believe me if I told you that the biggest game in the SEC this weekend isn't Florida-Tennessee? Well, what if I told you that the biggest game in the SEC was actually Kentucky versus South Carolina?
All offseason I suggested that people were missing the most interesting part of the SEC race. It wasn't the three teams with the best preseason odds to win the East and subsequently get thrashed by Alabama in the title game. Instead, the more intriguing storylines concerned the four teams pegged for the bottom of the conference: South Carolina, Kentucky, Missouri and Vanderbilt. I felt all four were underrated and undervalued. And I believed that two of them - USC and UK - had a chance to be major players in the East race while the two others were good enough to spring some upsets that could have a significant impact on the league title hunt.
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My initial premise - that a game between two overrated, living-off-their-reputation schools like Florida and Tennessee isn't actually all that impactful or interesting - isn't a stretch. But even though the second statement seems like a tough sell, realistically it isn't. Someone is leaving Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday with a 3-0 record and a whole lot of momentum. And if it is the hosts then that means South Carolina would have two league wins in their pocket before half of the SEC has even suited up for a single league game.
Kentucky at South Carolina Betting Storylines
Kentucky has earned a pair of completely unimpressive wins to start the season, taking down Southern Mississippi on the road and Eastern Kentucky at home. The Wildcats are 0-2 against the spread in those two games, though, letting Southern Miss sneak in the back door (winning 24-17 as a 10-point favorite) and never threatening to beat the spread against EKU (winning 27-16 as a 33-point chalk).
While I liked Kentucky as a potential under-the-radar underdog bet in SEC heading into this season, perhaps there is less value on this team than I thought. The Wildcats are now just 4-3 straight-up and 2-5 ATS in their last seven games.
Meanwhile South Carolina has been one of the most impressive teams in the country in terms of its overall results. They are 2-0 SU and ATS this season with a pair of road wins, taking down North Carolina State 35-28 in Charlotte as a touchdown underdog and going to Columbia to take down Missouri 31-13 last week. No other team in the country has two road wins against teams from Power 5 conferences.
However, there are some cracks in the foundation for the Gamecocks. USC has been outgained in each of its two games by a total of 322 yards. N.C. State outgained them by 258, and the Gamecocks were flat-out lucky to win that game thanks to multiple Wolfpack miscues.
This is a revenge game for the Gamecocks, who have lost to the Wildcats three years in a row. That includes Kentucky's 17-10 win last season, and all three of UK's recent victories have been by a touchdown or less. The Wildcats are 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings overall.
Kentucky at South Carolina Odds and Betting Trends
South Carolina opened as a full touchdown favorite in this game. However, despite taking over three-quarters of the action in this game, the spread has actually dropped to -6.0 at most books. The total opened at 54.5 offshore but has held firm at 50.5 at almost all Las Vegas and late-releasing offshore books.
Kentucky has gone an outstanding 6-1 ATS in their last seven SEC games, and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games against teams over .500. The Wildcats are 4-1 ATS in their last five road games. South Carolina is on a solid 6-2 ATS run dating back to last year, and they are 4-0 ATS in their last four conference games. The 'under' has been the play in each teams' SEC games, with the Wildcats going 'under' in 11 of 15 SEC games while South Carolina has gone 'under' in 10 of 11. That said, the 'over' is 8-2 in the last 10 meetings between these two teams and 7-1 in the last eight contests in South Carolina.
Kentucky at South Carolina Predictions and Picks
Maybe neither one of these teams is as good as I think they are. And maybe the most important takeaway from Saturday's contest will be that one of these teams - especially South Carolina, which will likely find itself in the Top 25 with a victory - will leave Columbia as an inflated, overrated contender in the SEC. But regardless, someone is going to have a head start on either Florida or Tennessee in the SEC race.
I like the home team. South Carolina's stats aren't impressive. But they absolutely have to get credit for earning two wins on the road against legit competition. Now that they are back at home, playing with revenge and momentum, I think that they will put together their best game of September. The Gamecocks should enjoy a nice home-field edge with a rowdy crowd packing Williams-Brice for a meaningful night game. USC is 45-12 in their last 57 home games, and I think that they will win and cover in this one.
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