College Football Picks: South Carolina to Win, but Kentucky to Cover

David Lawrence

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 11:27 AM GMT

Kentucky and South Carolina are opposites: One team is shorthanded on defense, the other shorthanded and dinged-up on offense. Which side will cover the CFB odds?

Momentum
The Wildcats and Gamecocks enter under circumstances that are simultaneously very similar and very different. What’s similar is that these teams both won very close games last weekend, making things more complicated than they needed to be. Kentucky’s defense collapsed and gave up a big lead. South Carolina was driving for a decisive touchdown on two separate occasions when it turned the ball over against North Carolina – once on downs, once by way of a fumble. These teams were both inconsistent and both have a lot of injuries to deal with as week two arrives.

What’s different is that Kentucky’s concerns are on defense, while South Carolina’s concerns are on offense. Kentucky evaporated in the second half against Louisiana-Lafayette, getting shredded by an offense from the Sun Belt Conference. South Carolina watched its starting quarterback, Connor Mitch, complete just 9 of 22 passes in a very nervous performance that has to have head coach Steve Spurrier very concerned. Both teams have reasons for doubt, but also reasons for optimism.

 

Line Moves
This line is shown at minus-7.5 points for South Carolina in a number of outlets, but it has moved to minus-7 points in others. If there is a downward movement in the line from 7.5 to 7 points, it is because of the worries about Mitch and teammate Brandon Wilds, both dealing with injuries, as you’ll see below. South Carolina would definitely be hurt by losing Wilds. Mitch may or may not be the answer at quarterback, so that’s less certain.

 

Notable Injuries
The Wildcats have a lot of concerns heading into a road conference game. Offensive lineman Kyle Meadows is questionable due to a suspension. Linebacker Courtney Love is out for the season due to eligibility issues. Linebacker Jason Hatcher is likely to miss this game due to a suspension, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Linebacker Kobie Walker is expected to miss this game (again, not 100-percent confirmed, however) with an ankle injury. Linebacker Ryan Flannigan is questionable with a shoulder injury. Earlier in the season, three players – two on defense, one on the offensive line – left the team. This is a group that is compromised by a comparative lack of depth.

South Carolina has plenty of issues as well, however. Wide receiver Shaq Davidson is out for the season. So is offensive lineman Brock Stadnik. So is wide receiver Jerad Washington. So is center Cody Waldrop. Then come questionable injury situations for two wide receivers, Deebo Samuel and Terry Googer. Finally, and most alarmingly, starting quarterback Connor Mitch is probable with a hip injury. His backup received a little bit of playing time against North Carolina, but not very much overall. Lead running back Brandon Wilds is questionable with a shoulder injury. For all of Kentucky’s injuries on defense, South Carolina is in a similarly damaged place on offense.

 

Handicapping The Game
South Carolina is not looking very good, and neither is Kentucky. This points to a close game between two flawed teams. South Carolina’s defense is probably good enough to handle Kentucky’s offense if the game is on the line. However, South Carolina’s offense is unlikely to score enough to pull away. Expect South Carolina to win by six, but as for this college football pick we predict Kentucky to cover.

College Football Pick: Kentucky +7.5 at William Hill