No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks (6-1 SU, 6-1 ATS) vs. No. 2 Florida Gators (6-0 SU, 5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Saturday, October 20th, 2012, 3:30 p.m. EST
Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.
by Badger, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC +3/Fla -3
Over/Under Total: 42.5
What was supposed to be a huge game in the title race for the SEC East has become an even bigger game now, and we’ll all get to watch how it unfolds when the 7th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks travel to “The Swamp” of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to take on the 2nd-ranked Florida Gators Saturday on CBS.
Saturday’s SEC East showdown in Gainesville was made even more important when the Gamecocks were knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten last week at LSU, 23-21. All of the momentum South Carolina had received from their big win over Georgia the week before was lost in a blink at LSU, and now the grinder known as the SEC kicks in as the Gamecocks try and rebound and revenge against the unbeaten Gators on the road in The Swamp.
The BCS committee also added drama to the Gamecocks-Gator showdown by putting Florida at the No. 2 spot in their initial BCS rankings Sunday, putting even more pressure on a young Gators team. The Gators responded well and avoided a letdown at Vanderbilt last weekend, 31-17, in a classic letdown spot on the road. But now that the Gators are No. 2 in the rankings, the pressure of wearing the target, in the middle of the SEC grind, under the national microscope, is something these young Gators have never experienced.
South Carolina can climb back into the national picture and virtually lock up the SEC East with a bounce back win at The Swamp, but the Gators are bound and determined to stay in the BCS and SEC East title races by defending their turf in the best game college football has to offer Saturday afternoon.
With so much excitement surrounding the game it’s sort of ironic that the point spread opened with a fizzle, as oddsmakers set the number with Florida as the “standard” 3-point favorite as the home team. Either the number is spot on, or the reaction to the lousy point spread has dampened the action, because it hasn’t moved off of minus -3 at all.
The over/under total has opened already at a few offshore sportsbooks, with 41.5 appearing to be the starting point. But its early and its all over the map already with plenty of 41’s, 41.5’s and 42 to be had depending on where you go to wager.
Anytime you handicap an SEC game you have to start with the defenses, and these two have two of the best anywhere. The Gamecocks are ranked 12th in yards allowed (296 ypg), the Gators are 13th (297 ypg), but it’s not so much that they don’t allow you any yards but they don’t allow anyone to score either. These two are fifth and sixth in that defensive category, both allowing 12.3 points a game, so it becomes more important to try and figure out if and how these offenses can attack.
Florida is much more one-dimensional on offense, relying on running back Mike Gillislee to carry the load, literally. The Gators as a team run for 233 yards a game, which has hid the fact that QB Jeff Driskel hasn’t been forced to “win” a game throwing the ball yet, something the Gators will have to prove they can do this week against the Cocks.
It’s no secret that the South Carolina offense feeds off of running back Marcus Lattimore, but the Gamecocks in general are more balanced (218 ypg pass - 160 ypg run) and more proven with Connor Shaw at quarterback. Shaw’s strength in the passing game is outside the pocket, something the Gators speed on the edge could control.
South Carolina won at home last year, 17-12, if a low-scoring defensive battle is what you’re expecting on Saturday. The Gamecocks won in their last visit to The Swamp, back in 2010 by a 36-14 score, but prior to their mini two-game run it was actually the Gators that owned the head-to-head series winning four straight, seven of the last eight going back to 2002.
The home team has enjoyed this series of late, with the homefield advantage going 7-3 ATS in the last 10 meetings. South Carolina has been good on the road (7-3 ATS in L10) and Florida has struggled at home (2-5-1 ATS), so something with that betting trend is going to give this weekend.
Badger’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m having a hard time picking a side for this game, these two are so similar and evenly matched. I’m leaning to the Gamecocks, since they do have a better offense and they lost their “letdown” game last week. But the Swamp is the Swamp for a reason, and South Carolina does have a tendency to fold in pressure-packed games. If I play I might put a small wager on the under, but otherwise this one is a pass for me. Enjoy the game, let’s hope it lives up to the hype.
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