There's no question who the top team in the Southeastern Conference is. Much debate, however, exists as to who is No. 2, and the race for the East Division title remains up in the air as we reach the 12th week on the college football betting schedule.
Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks will try and keep their name in the hat for a shot at the conference title game when they host the Florida Gators this Saturday evening, the final SEC game of 2013 for both schools. ESPN2 will have the broadcast from Williams-Brice Stadium beginning at 7 PM (ET).
The spread for this prime-time matchup went out in the 13-14 point range in favor of the Gamecocks.That number settled in the 13 to 13.5 span at most shops charted by SBR's live college football odds.
South Carolina has won two of the last three meetings, but this has been a series thoroughly dominated by the Gators. Florida is 18-3 vs. the Gamecocks since they joined the SEC in 1992, reeling off 13 consecutive wins before South Carolina stopped that string in 2005. Dating back to the first contest in 1911, a 6-6 tie, the Gators sport a 24-6-3 mark against the 'Cocks.
Florida put a sound whipping on South Carolina last year in Gainesville, racing to a 21-6 halftime lead before ending it 44-11. Four turnovers did the Gamecocks in as the Gators easily covered the short home chalk. That match went past the total to stop a 3-year run for the 'under.' Will history repeat itself? Sportsbooks thinks so, and are favoring the Gators in their game this week.
Gators Reach Columbia On 4-Game Skid
Last year's Florida-South Carolina matchup was a battle of top 10 teams, and all signs pointed to this year's tussle being the same when the 2013 campaign got underway. But after a 4-1 start, the Gators (4-5 straight up, 2-6-1 against the spread) have dropped four straight to fall below .500. To become bowl eligible, Florida has to beat No. 10 South Carolina this week and No. 2 Florida State two Saturday's later.
Injuries have played a huge part in the demise of Will Muschamp's squad, the loss of starting quarterback Jeff Driskel in the third game of the season is at the top of that list. The offensive line has also taken a hit, and the Gators will now play on without top linebacker Antonio Morrison who tore up his knee in last week's loss to Vanderbilt.
Tyler Murphy, who has been playing in place of Driskel, has a banged-up shoulder himself, but is expected to play against the Gamecocks. Redshirt freshman Skyler Mornhinweg is currently next on the Florida QB depth chart.
Murphy probably wishes he hadn't played Saturday vs. Vanderbilt; the junior threw three picks and also fumbled in the 34-17 setback to the Commodores who beat the Gators on their turf for the first time since 1945. Vandy turned all three of Murphy's interceptions into touchdowns to build a 24-3 lead early in the third quarter of the upset.
The Ol' Ball Coach can't afford to get sentimental facing his alma mater where he won the 1966 Heisman Trophy, and the team he coached to a perfect 10-0 record vs. South Carolina. Steve Spurrier still has his Gamecocks (7-2 SU, 4-5 ATS) in the hunt for a chance to represent the East Division in the SEC Championship, and if that means kicking the Gators while they're down, so be it.
South Carolina will need some help to get there as the Missouri Tigers are still in control of the East Division. Even if the Gamecocks don't get that help, winning out could very well mean an eventual invite to a BCS Bowl.
Spurrier has had two weeks to get his team ready for this one, South Carolina's last trip to the gridiron resulted in a 34-16 win and cover at home vs. Mississippi State. Connor Shaw only completed 10 passes in the game, but four went for touchdowns as the Bulldogs turned it over five times and couldn't stop the Gamecocks ground attack led by Mike Davis' 128 yards.
On what should be a partly cloudy evening with temps in the 60's forecast for Columbia, I like the Gators to have just enough fight in them to keep this inside the spread. Give me the points on the visitors for my free college football pick.
My pick: Florida +13.5 at Bet365
Season record: 21-8 (+12.2)