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South Carolina vs. Kentucky

Betting Line: South Carolina -5 o/u 54.5

10/16/10

 

Well which is it? Is this Steve Spurrier finally getting over the hump and producing his best year yet at South Carolina? Or is this the same old Gamecocks that win a big game one week and lose one they should win the following week? We shall soon find out. There's more to being a top ranked football team than just knocking off the #1 team in the land. Top teams not only win the big games, they win the little ones too.

This week will tell us if South Carolina is for real or not. Actually, the next two weeks will tell us that. They go on the road two straight weeks against teams they should beat. This weeks they are at Kentucky. Next week they are at Vanderbilt.

Kentucky is no pushover but this South Carolina team is better on both sides of the ball. Kentucky was blown out by Florida and lost to an Ole Miss team that really isn't too good this year. Otherwise, the Wildcats claim to fame this year is going toe to toe with Auburn last week. They will also be going into this game without their top running back, Derrick Locke. He's the 4th leading rusher in the SEC and even if he plays he's likely to be missing a step or two as he's nursing more than one injury.

Kentucky will be trying to exploit a perceived weakness in the South Carolina secondary. QB Mike Hartline was an amazing 23-28 last week against Auburn for an 82% completion rate and season to date the Wildcats have only allowed 3 sacks. But if the running game sputters as expected this week, it could be a long day for Kentucky and Hartline. A solid running game obviously opens up the passing game.

The Kentucky defense might have trouble against a Pop Warner team. They can't stop anyone. They are giving up on average 190 rushing yards per game. On paper their pass defense looks good, but that's mostly because there's no need to throw as often the ball against a team that can't stop the run.

In 2007 Steve Spurrier had the Gamecocks at 6-1 and ranked 6th in the Nation. They followed that up by going 0-5 down the stretch and failing to even make a Bowl game. That's on the ol ball coach's back. When a team falters that badly down the stretch you have to place the blame squarely on the head honcho. Which is what makes this game, and this season all the more important for Spurrier. His career is more likely to be judged by what he does in South Carolina, not what he did in Florida. 

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South Carolina has won 10 straight against Kentucky (mostly close games) and Spurrier is 17-0 against them. The team is coming off the biggest win in school history and it's up to the coaching staff to keep these kids focused and prevent a letdown. We've seen it over and over again at the college level. A team wins a huge game and then falls flat on their face the following week against a team they should beat.

The bottom line here is that when South Carolina can run the ball, they win games. Here they get a Kentucky team that simply can't stop the run. The Gamecocks should be able to control this game from start to finish and methodically put Kentucky away.

South Carolina has a yards per point number on offense of 12 and a very good 19 defensively. Kentucky is also 12 on offense but a very poor 11 on defense which is among the worst on all of college football. This just confirms what we have already mentioned. They can't stop anyone.

This is as fundamental as handicapping gets. Run the ball, control the clock, open up the passing game, win football games. If these two teams were to play 100 times, or an infinite number of times, there's little doubt in our minds we'd likely win more than 53% of the time at the current number of SC -4.5. We are simply playing the percentages here.

One method we use to arrive at a predicted final score has South Carolina by 20 points so we're going to go ahead and lay the number here with the Gamecocks and hope that Spurrier can keep this team from suffering a letdown. South Carolina -4.5

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