It’s no secret that the SEC has been the toughest conference in college football for quite some time.
The Pac-12 started to creep up there for a while in the Chip Kelly era but since has slumped back down with just a few good teams. Now, the only real competition for the SEC is the Big 10, with the Ohio State Buckeyes, Penn State Nittany Lions, Michigan Wolverines, and Wisconsin Badgers, all tough as nails. Heck, even Minnesota is a solid team.
However, the SEC has a loss waiting for any team on any given Saturday. The Alabama Crimson Tide, Auburn Tigers, LSU Tigers, Georgia Bulldogs, Texas A&M Aggies, SC Gamecocks, and Florida Gators are perennial teams that can hand anyone in the nation a loss at any given time.
We saw just that today, the unranked South Carolina Gamecocks put a hurting on the No. 15 Auburn Tigers. The Gamecocks were down by five points in with 6:38 to go in the 3rd quarter when Hill tossed a jump ball over by the endzone’s sideline. The 5-10 Shi Smith got up in the air, over the top of Auburn’s Nehemiah Prichett, to haul in the TD and put the SC Gamecocks ahead of the Tigers on the scoreboards. Six-foot-one versus five-foot-ten. But hops and a well-placed pass are what mattered most.
The SC Gamecocks defense got the job done, holding the Auburn Tigers to just two fields through the rest of the 3rd and 4th quarters. Now South Carolina has won two straight. Although they dropped their first two games, the first was to No. 16 Tennessee in the season opener after an offseason with nearly non-existent practices. The second was to the No. 3 ranked Florida Gators in the swamp. So, it’s understandable. But after watching how the Gamecocks played against the Vanderbilt Commodores and now No. 15 Auburn, it looks like they are finding their stride and are already shaping up to be that team in the SEC that can upset the top-ranked teams’ seasons.
The Gamecocks are near the bottom of college football odds to win the SEC. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see their odds get a little bit better after putting up 30 points on the Tigers and 41 points against the Commodores in Nashville. Up against Vanderbilt, the SC defense played superbly. There was just a moment of weakness in the 3rd quarter when they allowed the game’s only score.
The Gamecocks schedule isn’t easy. Next up, South Carolina has to head to Death Valley to face the LSU Tigers. At the time of writing, the LSU Tigers are just 1-2 and ranked 5th in the SEC West. They started the season ranked NO. 6 in AP but got crushed right out of the gate by Mississippi State while in Tiger Stadium; they followed that up with a close loss on the road to Mizzou. Unfortunately, this week’s matchup against the No. 10 Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffen Stadium was postponed. Otherwise, the Gamecocks could be looking at facing a 1-3 LSU team.
As bad as the LSU record is, they are still putting up 34 points per game through 345 passing yards and getting off a whopping 84 plays per game. On the flip side, the Gamecocks are scoring 27 points per game but have averaged 35.5 per game over the last two.
LSU’s problem is their defense is nothing like it was last year. In this 2020 campaign, they are giving up 44 points per game. That’s way, way back at No. 126. The LSU defense gave up 406 yards and 4 TDs through the air to Mizzou’s Bazelak. Mississippi State’s QB, Brennan dropped 5 TDs and 623 yards –wow, that’s turdsville. Even though SC tends to go run-heavy, with such a weak pass defense, Hill should be able to light the LSU Secondary up. HIll only went 15-24 for 144 yards in their win against Auburn and threw for 196 yards against Vanderbilt, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he throws for 250 or more against the Tigers.
The point spread isn’t out yet, but I believe the Gamecocks will be listed as close underdogs or a pick ‘em, just because LSU is going to get a few points for home-field advantage. We’ll probably see LSU -1 on the college football betting lines at top sportsbooks. The
Tigers are rated with an FPI of 13.6, and the Gamecocks just 8.4. But that was before SC beat the Auburn Tigers, who had an FPI of 15.7, meaning they should have beaten South Carolina by 4 points while on the road.
I have a feeling SC’s FPI will be upped to around 14. This would make them one or two-point dogs at Death Valley. That’s said, I’d take that line all day!