This is obviously a down season for the South Carolina Gamecocks under Steve Spurrier, but they may muster enough energy to cover as double-digit home underdogs to LSU.
The seventh ranked team in the country could potentially be overvalued Saturday vs. a team in a down year in SEC play when those undefeated LSU Tigers (4-0, 1-3 ATS) pay a visit to the disappointing South Carolina Gamecocks (2-3, 2-3 ATS) at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC at 12:00 Noon ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.
Fournette Leads the Way
The Tigers have continued to ride the running of Heisman Trophy front-runner Leonard Fournette to a 4-0 start, as he has now topped 200 rushing yards in three straight games and stands at 864 rushing yards through four contests on a whopping 8.7 yards per carry with 11 touchdowns. Most recently he has 233 yards on 26 carries in a 44-22 win over Eastern Michigan last Saturday.
Meanwhile, South Carolina probably has the worst team since the “old ball coach” Steve Spurrier took over as head coach in 2005, so being the losing college football pick in three of the first five games should not be surprising. And unfortunately, the Gamecocks are already 0-3 inside the SEC while going 2-0 both straight up and ATS out of conference, beating North Carolina and Central Florida.
But has all this made South Carolina undervalued in this spot catching double-digits at home in league play?
Not Great Wins
After all, LSU has not exactly been bettor-friendly during its 4-0 start going 1-3 ATS with the only cover coming in a blowout of a discombobulated Auburn team. Other than that, the Tigers just barely survived inside the SEC in a 21-19 win at Mississippi State and then failed to cover the spread vs. two seemingly outclassed non-conference foes the last two weeks, beating Syracuse 34-24 as 23½-point favorites and then Eastern Michigan 44-22 as 45-point chalk.
Then there is the fact that LSU has what on paper anyway looks like a much tougher date with Florida up next, the same Florida team that just blew out what was then the third ranked team in the country in Mississippi on Saturday.
Thus, even if the Tigers are not threatened in this game, we can easily see them staying in the same cruise control they seemed to be in the last two weeks with Fournette doing all the work, although the Gamecocks are still a substantial upgrade over Syracuse and Eastern Michigan even in a down year.
Taken Step Back Since Bowl Appearance?
The Gamecocks fell below .500 again with a 24-10 loss at Missouri last week, but the good news is that the teams were almost equal in terms of yardage with the South Carolina defense playing its best game of the season, holding Missouri to just 299 total yards on 3.9 yards per rush and a miniscule 4.9 yards per pass attempt. In fact, South Carolina now has six takeaways and nine sacks on defense for the year, an improvement from a year ago.
And aside from Fournette, the second biggest playmaker in this game is probably South Carolina wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, who has done it all for the Gamecocks through five games with 26 reception for 322 yards (12.4 yards per catch) and two receiving touchdowns as well as 81 rushing yards on 12 carries (6.8 yards per rush) with one rushing touchdown.
Also, in two games here at Williams-Brice Stadium this year, South Carolina beat Central Florida by 17 points and was nipped 26-22 by Kentucky. As long as freshman quarterback Lorenzo Nunez protects the ball well, we see no reason why the Gamecocks cannot feed off of the energy of the home crowd and stay inside single-digits, especially if LSU has one eye on Florida.
Burning Money on the Road
Finally, LSU usually plays to inflated spreads on the road and is thus 2-6 ATS in its last eight road games. The Tigers are also 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games following a win by more than 20 points, while South Carolina is 4-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS loss.
Expect those trends to continue here with South Carolina covering as a double-digit home underdog to LSU on Saturday.
College Football Pick: South Carolina +13 (-106)