College Football Picks: Kentucky vs. South Carolina

Willie Bee

Friday, October 4, 2013 4:16 PM GMT

South Carolina aims for its third straight win Saturday night at home against Kentucky, and we've got the matchup covered with a preview and free college football pick.

 

This one could get real ugly, real fast. Or the South Carolina Gamecocks could underachieve once again as they have done four times in five tries against the college football betting spread.

Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia is the site for Saturday's SEC clash between South Carolina and the Kentucky Wildcats, a pair of teams with opposite records overall and each already with a conference loss. The 3-1 Gamecocks are 3-TD favorites on the NCAA odds board against the 1-3 Wildcats, who are going up against their third consecutive ranked opponent with top-ranked Alabama on deck. Totals bettors are making their decision on a scoreboard hurdle that started at 55, moved up to 56 and has since dropped to the 54-55 point range.

South Carolina continues to sit just outside the top 10 where the Gamecocks landed following their Week 2 defeat at Georgia. The coaches have them 12th, one rung above the AP rankings, and this is their last home game before three straight road trips. 

The series has belonged to the Gamecocks with 12 wins in the last 13 years. South Carolina has the 16-7-1 all-time advantage, all but three of those matchups occurring since USC joined the SEC in 1992. The Gamecocks have covered six of the last eight clashes, and three of the last four at The Cock Pit. The OVER is on a six year streak, each of the last five in Columbia also going past the number. 

Stoops Finds Sledding Tough In 1st Year At UK

There were no expectations for Kentucky this season as the biggest long shot to win the SEC on the futures college football odds back in July (100/1). But 1st-year head coach Mark Stoops probably didn't think things would be this tough. The campaign started with an upset loss to Western Kentucky, a 5.5-point underdog, and the last two games have seen setbacks to ranked Louisville and Florida squads.

The defense, where Stoops excels, hasn't been that bad, actually ranking ahead of South Carolina's in total yards allowed. The offense also ranks in the middle of the nation statistically, but its the inconsistency of that unit which has caused the most problems, and a big reason for those inconsistencies has been Stoops' indecision at quarterback. 

Stoops said "it would be reckless" to crown either Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow as the No. 1 pivot right now, and that's primarily because neither sophomore has done anything to claim the job himself. The Wildcats offensive line hasn't made it easy on either Smith or Whitlow, and playing from behind so often this year has put pressure on both.

SC Dodges Bullet With QB Injury

Steve Spurrier was pretty businesslike in his weekly press conference, never once looking like a guy at the helm of a ship that was a preseason No. 6 and coming off a near-upset at Central Florida. When I say businesslike, it's in reference to one comment the Ol' Ball Coach made regarding ticket sales. "We're fired up that it's another sellout."

"Struggled" was a key word Spurrier used when talking about Kentucky, and as businesslike and jovial Spurrier was in the press conference, I got the sense that the man was displeased about last week's performance. Very displeased. As in Kentucky and Stoops may be struggling, but I want my team to kick their butts displeased. 

While Stoops is hesitant at this point to name a No. 1 QB, Spurrier is catching a break regarding his top signal caller. Connor Shaw was originally thought to be out of action this week and beyond after spraining his right shoulder in the first half of last week's narrow victory over UCF, but Shaw returned to practice this week and Spurrier says he will start.

Shaw isn't the only name on this week's list of wounded or suspended Cocks. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney missed practice on Thursday with bruised ribs, but is expected to start Saturday night. Top wideout Shaq Roland is on the naughty list and will miss Saturday's tilt, while backup tailback Brandon Wilds is questionable with a wrist injury.So, that's just one more thing we need to consider before finalizing our college football picks for this game.

 

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":246346, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Mother Nature & Final Thoughts

Tropical Storm Karen is eventually expected to bring rain to South Carolina, but not until Sunday or Monday. Warm and muggy is the Saturday night forecast for Columbia where the thermometer will still be in the upper-70s, low-80s for kickoff.

Though Shaw will reportedly start, I'm not sure how long the senior QB will play. Same goes for Clowney. It all adds up to me for a free pick on the Gamecocks in the first half.

My pick: South Carolina -11.5 (1st half play)