NCAA Football Picks: Week 1 Preview, Texas A&M vs. SC Gamecocks

Jeff Grant

Monday, July 7, 2014 5:21 PM GMT

The South Carolina Gamecocks possess the nation’s longest home winning streak, which will lead them to a season-opening win against the Texas A&M Aggies next month. Let’s take a closer look at the college football betting odds for this Southeastern Conference showdown at Williams-Brice Stadium, with the opening kickoff scheduled for August 28 at 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.


Life without Johnny Football
A quarterback competition is about to take place in College Station, TX, with former star Johnny Manziel being selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL draft, while Matt Joeckel transferred out of the program in April.

Aggies third-year head coach Kevin Sumlin has virtually narrowed down the position to two candidates, with top recruit Kyle Allen seemingly positioned atop the depth chart, while sophomore Kenny Hill is sitting just behind him.

Allen will land the role if Sumlin wants to run a more pro-style offense, while Hill provide the dual-threat dynamic that the fan base has grown accustomed to in watching Manziel.


Moving on without a couple key pieces
South Carolina has put together three-straight 11-win seasons, as it prepares for Year 10 of the Steve Spurrier era in Columbia, but it’s important to point out that defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and quarterback Connor Shaw have both departed for the professional ranks.

The Gamecocks have some key players ready to fill in, with all eyes on senior signal-caller Dylan Thompson, who has completed 55 percent of his passes for 1,827 yard and 14 touchdowns, while posting a 3-0 career record as a starter over three seasons.

On the other side of the ball, sophomore linebacker Skai Moore will need to build off a solid campaign, as he tallied team-highs with 56 tackles and four interceptions a year ago.


Life on the road
College football handicappers will find that the Aggies were 0-2 ATS as road underdogs last season, getting out-gained by 302 yards in setbacks against the Missouri Tigers and LSU Tigers in that situation.

Texas A&M is 4-7 SU in its last 11 season openers when played on the road or neutral site, but it has won its last two by 45 and 12-point margins.

Sumlin will need a much-maligned defense from a year ago to take a step forward with nine returning starters, with coordinator Mark Snyder returning for a third year.


Impressive numbers
The Gamecocks are worthy double-digit favorites in the early college football odds, considering they’ve captured seven consecutive home openers by an average of 22 points, while also winning a school-record 18 consecutive contests at this facility.

Spurrier has shown a willingness to rely heavily on the ground game early on in recent seasons, which is the right approach in this matchup with junior Mike Davis averaging 5.7 yards per carry in his career.


Prediction
I’m going to recommend that readers back the Gamecocks as one of their Week 1 college football picks, as they’ve covered the number in four of their last five Thursday night affairs.
Pick:  South Carolina Gamecocks -14

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