The post-Steve Spurrier era at South Carolina begins and the Gamecocks look like ripe upset victims Saturday facing a Vanderbilt team that has played better than its 2-3 record.
With the “Old Ball Coach” basically quitting on his team, the underdogs have a real shot at the mild upset on Saturday in SEC play when those Vanderbilt Commodores (4-2, 3-3 ATS) pay a visit to the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-2, 3-3 ATS), now under the guidance of former offensive line coach Shawn Elliott on an interim basis, at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC at 4:00 ET in a game televised nationally on SEC Network.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Vanderbilt as a tiny road underdog for this contest with the current line at +2½ with odds of -104.
Spurrier Jumps Ship
Steve Spurrier made it very clear in his press conference earlier in the week that he is “resigning” and not “retiring”, and he went on to imply that he probably would have stayed at South Carolina until at least the end of this season if his team had been winning instead of 2-4. That sounds like code for “quitting” to us as he basically bailed on a rather bad team so as not ruin his legacy after turning the Gamecocks around since becoming their head coach in 2005.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has a losing record as college football picks also at 2-3, but the Commodores appear to have more upside this year between these two programs because at least they have been competitive every game as evidenced by a 4-1 ATS mark and their very good defense and surprisingly fine passing game makes them a candidate to possibly pull some upsets down the line and, although it is a longshot, maybe get to six wins to be bowl eligible.
Worst Gamecocks in Years
While we do not agree with what Spurrier did, as it is basically the equivalent of a star player asking for a transfer in the middle of the season because his team is losing, we could certainly understand his frustration as this is probably the worst Gamecocks team he has had since taking over 10 years ago. South Carolina is still seeking its first conference win as it is 0-4 in the SEC, and even the two non-conference wins were not very inspiring.
First, South Carolina edged North Carolina 17-13 back on opening week while getting outgained in the game but benefitting from two red zone turnovers by the Tar Heels (three turnovers in all), and later the Gamecocks trailed Central Florida at halftime here in Columbia, the same UCF team that is currently 0-6 and had previously lost at home to Furman of the FCS, before waking up after a probable tongue-lashing at halftime to go on to win 31-14.
This 2015 South Carolina team has no offense, ranking 112th in the country out of 128 FBS teams in scoring with 20.7 points per game and 108th in total offense with 341.7 yards per game, and the defense is not much better allowing 428.0 yards per encounter to rank 100th nationally. This team has simply been outclassed vs. SEC competition, not only going 0-4 on the field but now also sitting 0-4 ATS following a 45-24 loss to LSU last week.
Two Weeks to Prepare
Vanderbilt is also seeking its first SEC win at 0-2 thus far, but at least the Commodores come to play every week as they are 2-0 ATS in those contests while giving Georgia and Mississippi more that they bargained for. In fact, Vanderbilt is 4-0 ATS overall vs. FBS competition this year, as its only non-cover actually came in a 47-7 win over Austin Peay of the FCS as a 47-point favorite!
Vanderbilt has had a good enough defense to at least hang around with upper echelon teams in the SEC for several years, and that has continued this season with the Commodores ranking 26th in the country in points against (18.4 per game) and 26th in total defense (320.8 yards). The surprise though has been the passing of Johnny McCrary, as Vandy actually ranks 38th in the nation in passing offense at 255.4 yards per game through the air.
The running game has not graded out as well at 86th, but at least running back Ralph Webb has been serviceable, averaging 4.0 yards per carry while rushing for 437 yards and three touchdowns. Remember also that the Commodores have had two weeks to prepare for this game following a bye last week, so they could potentially have their best FBS performance of the season on both sides of the ball here vs. a Gamecocks’ squad reeling in all areas.
Finally, Vanderbilt might have another win and actually be over .500 right now if not for a -7 turnover margin after five games (11-4). Now, we are one of the proponents of turnovers being mainly a function of luck, so we actually prefer wagering on teams that have negative turnover margins to skew their scores. On the flip side, South Carolina is exactly neutral in the turnover area after six games (7-7).
Add this all up along with what some novices might consider to be a small point spread with South Carolina being favored by less than a field goal at home, and we see Vanderbilt being the team keeping its rather ambitious goal of becoming bowl eligible alive with the mild upset in Columbia on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Vanderbilt +2½ (-104)