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South Carolina vs. East Carolina Week 1 College Football Free Pick

Big things are expected from Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks in 2011. Most college football observers have SC pegged as the team to beat in the SEC East as well as being a serious contender for the SEC title and maybe even a BCS title contender. They open their season Saturday, September 3rd against East Carolina at a neutral site as -20.5 favorites at 3 of the top sportsbooks in the world, 5Dimes, Bodog and SBG Global.

But the feeling here is that perhaps South Carolina is being shown a little too much respect out of the gate. For starters, Spurrier teams haven't always performed well right out of the gate, particularly on the offensive side of the ball and specifically against lesser quality opponents.

 

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For example, a quick look back over the years and we see the Gamecocks only getting by Wofford 27-20 on 2006 in their 3rd game of the year. In 2007 in their opener, as 29 point favorites, they beat Louisiana 28-14 (no, not Louisiana State, aka LSU). In 2008 they lost to Vandy in week 2 and then squeaked by Wofford 23-13 and UAB 26-13. In the Wofford and UAB games they were favored by 32 and 26 points. Just last season Furman stayed fairly close losing as 33 point dogs, 38-19.

These were all early season games against lesser opponents as big favorites and Spurrier and the Gamecocks weren't able to deliver a pointspread winner in any of them. East Carolina stands out here when compared to all of those opponents for several reasons, the most important being that the Pirates had the #16 rated scoring offense in the nation last year, averaging 37 points per game, most of that through the air.

Anytime you have a college football team with a prolific offense as a sizable underdog you have a very live dog. The "back door" will always be open in a game like this. No lead would ever be considered safe. This is an East Carolina team that hung 51 points on Tulsa in their first game last year and also knocked off a 9-4 NC State team in OT, 33-27.

The Pirates were also outclassed several times last year against quality opponents and are extremely vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball where they were simply terrible, giving up 44 points per game on average making them one of the worst defensive teams in the nation. Changes have been made to the defensive scheme so we'll just have to see. It can't get any worse.

The bottom line - South Carolina has the better team, no doubt. Much better talent on both sides of the ball. However, when you factor in the Gamecocks lackluster performances with Spurrier at the helm, in early season games against lesser opponents, not to mention Spurrier coming up empty in "big" games time and time again, we have to side with the Pirates here. Yeah, this may not classify as a "big game", but it is the opener for both teams, at a neutral site, and is a series that will see these teams play each other each year over the next several years. There's some added incentive if you're an East Carolina player going up against the big bad Gamecocks.

The line sits at -20.5. If and when it crosses over to -21 we become even more interested in the Pirates. For now we'll put this out as an opinion only, and we'll assume we can get +21 at some point before kickoff. East Carolina +21

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