Has the Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier, lost his magic at South Carolina? The Gamecocks were one of the big disappointments of the 2014 season. 5Dimes isn't high on them in 2015, either, as the Cocks have a wins total of 6.5 on NCAA football odds.
South Carolina entered last season as one of the elite programs in the country. The Gamecocks won 11 games each season from 2011-13, capped by a New Year's Day bowl victory each year (twice in Capital One Bowl, once in Outback Bowl). Presumably, USC was going to contend with Georgia for the SEC East title in 2014 and it was a preseason No. 9 in the Associated Press Top 25. Alas, that ranking lasted all of one game.
It's hard to read too much into a season opener because clubs are a bit rusty, perhaps, and breaking in new starters all over the place. South Carolina had lost a ton off the 2013 team, lead by star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft by the Houston Texans.
South Carolina opened last season at home against No. 21 Texas A&M, and Aggies freshman quarterback Kenny Hill went all Johnny Manziel on that USC defense as A&M won 52-28 to end South Carolina's 18-game home winning streak. Hill was 44-for-60 for 511 yards, the most ever against USC, and three touchdowns. That game would foreshadow some major defensive problems for the Gamecocks.
USC did win its next three after the A&M loss, including a 38-35 upset of No. 6 Georgia. But the Cocks allowed 45 points in a loss at Kentucky, 42 points in a loss at Auburn, 45 points in a home loss to Tennessee (USC led 42-28 with just under five minutes left), and 35 points to close the regular season in a blowout loss at Clemson. The year ended on a minor high note with a 24-21 win over Miami in the Independence Bowl, USC's school-record fourth straight postseason victory.
Spurrier seemed to take offense at last month's SEC Media Days that some were questioning whether the game had passed him by at age 70: "We were 11-2 and ranked fourth in the country this time a year ago, and nobody said a damn word about my age. Now, a year later, I'm suddenly too old, and we're on our way down. ... Gamecocks out there need to know that I'm going to be here five or six more years, and away we go."
To his credit, Spurrier has never been afraid to speak his mind. And it's usually so entertaining.
So with a new Quarterback in town this season, lets take a look at the betting odds on offer for this team and discuss how and where we should look to place our College Football picks.
Mitch Takes Over At QB
The big question heading into camp was who would replaced the departed Dylan Thompson at quarterback. That was decided this week: sophomore Connor Mitch will be the starter next Thursday night when South Carolina faces North Carolina in Charlotte. He was the presumed front-runner and beat out junior Perry Orth, redshirt freshman Michael Scarnecchia and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez.
Mitch was Thompson's backup last year but was just 2-for-6 for 19 yards. But Mitch is arguably the highest-rated prep quarterback (he's from North Carolina) that Spurrier ever signed at USC. Don't be surprised to see Nunez on the field some against the Heels and going forward as he's a big-time running threat in a Wildcat formation.
USC also must replace 2014 leading rusher Mike Davis, who carried 199 times for 982 yards and nine scores. But the school should be OK there as Davis' backup. Brandon Wilds, returns. He carried 106 times for 570 yards and four scores a year ago. The team's best offensive player will be All-SEC do-it-all receiver Pharoh Cooper. Think Percy Harvin. Cooper caught 69 passes for 1,136 yards and nine scores last year, while adding 27 carries for 200 yards and two scores, and even going 5-for-8 passing for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He will be used everywhere. Cooper is +12000 to win the Heisman.
Overall, just four starters are back on offense but eight on defense.
South Carolina has opened as a 3-point favorite for the season opener against North Carolina and follows with what should be a home win over Kentucky. Then it's a visit to No. 9 Georgia, the SEC East favorite, on Sept. 9. Of course the Gamecocks play every East Division team, with the other toughest road tests at No. 24 Missouri on Oct. 3 and at Tennessee on Nov. 7. From the SEC West, the Cocks host No. 14 LSU on Oct. 10 and go to Texas A&M on Halloween. The bright side of that: no Alabama, Auburn or Ole Miss. The regular season ends as always vs. Clemson, this year in Columbia.
NCAAF Free Picks: USC is +4500 to win the SEC and +1050 to take the East Division. I'm not sure the Gamecocks win a true road game. Also see them losing to LSU and Clemson. So that's 6-6 with a win over UNC in the opener. Go 'under' the 6.5 total at College Football odds of +100.