Just a week away from one of the most unexpected wins in Gamecock history, South Carolina will be hoping for its second win against a top-10 squad in two weeks when the team makes the short trip north at noon this Saturday to to face the Clemson Tigers.

USC goes hot into this matchup with a 6-5 record against the spread, putting up a 7-4 record overall. This is the program’s first seven-win season (excluding bowl games) since 2018.

Clemson, on the other hand, is directly ahead at 10-1, with a much worse record at 6-5 ATS.

After a loss to Notre Dame that also caused the team’s public perception to drop, the Tigers have responded well, beating Louisville and Miami (both home games) by 15 and 30 points, respectively.

Despite the victories, quarterback play questions remain for the team.

Believe Clemson or not, Vegas seems to respect her.

The Tigers are preferred over the Gamecocks with 14.5 points, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

ESPN’s FPI gives South Carolina an 11.1% chance of winning its eighth win of the season and first against Clemson since 2013.

The total is fixed at 52 points.

Why was the line set to this number?

At first glance, this line feels like a trap.

A Clemson squad no one seems to trust should beat the South Carolina team, which just beat Tennessee by 25, by 14.5 points? The South Carolina team that has seven wins on one of the toughest schedules in the country? The South Carolina team that just figured out how to play offense and now has to defend against DJ Uiagalelei and the rest of an overwhelming offense after limiting Hendon Hooker (to a degree)?

As?

Then I started to think a little more.

I think everyone can concede that Clemson has at least a chance of winning, and when they do, they do it with an 18.3 point average.

Additionally, NC State and Syracuse are the only two teams they haven’t beaten at home by at least 14, both of which were ranked at the time of the game.

Basically, Clemson hits unranked teams.

Next…may we admit that South Carolina is a little overrated?

Just two weeks ago, the Gamecocks failed to score an offensive touchdown en route to a 38-6 win at Swamp.

And I don’t really know why, but USC just can’t play during the day, going 0-4 and losing an average of 25 points if the game isn’t at 7 p.m. or later.

All of this goes to show that this line may have been better placed than previously thought, and it never even occurred to me that South Carolina has lost its last seven games to Clemson by an average of 26 points.

Vegas has taken a cue from South Carolina bettors for the past seven years, and they’re hoping to do so again by catching you with that 14.5.

What has to happen for the Gamecocks to mark?

Defensively, the Cocks have 14 points to work with. If they can keep Clemson under 30 then cover will likely be in play and doing that against a Tigers squad known primarily for their defense shouldn’t be too difficult.

However, Will Shipley scares me with USC’s suspect run defense that Tennessee refused to capitalize on last week.

Offensively we saw a blueprint.

There were three teams that could pin some points on Clemson, and all three did it the same way: let the football go.

Both Notre Dame and Florida State rushed for more than 200 yards, with the Irish noting floorplay as quarterback Drew Pyne couldn’t throw even 100 yards during the contest.

Wake Forest — the school that scored the most points against Clemson this season — rushed for 110 yards as a team and was one of the few to have real success through the air, with Sam Hartman throwing for 337 yards and six touchdowns and giving at least some of them hope for a repeat of Spencer Rattler.

In my opinion, I would focus on feeding Marshawn Lloyd on his return because Clemson’s pass rush is way better than Tennessee’s. Rattler will likely return to his quick solve methods as he will have a lot less time in his pocket to work with.

Running also tends to milk the clock, which only benefits the tails.

So my keys to cover are stopping the run because you know Clemson is going to do a lot of it, running the ball down Clemson’s throat and not flipping the ball because Death Valley will feed on that energy.

What’s the better bet?

This was the year that ended bad spells for South Carolina, but I think it ends here.

The Cocks may have turned some heads this season, but this game won’t be the one where they defeat Clemson or even cover the spread.

Unfortunately no more fairy tale ending.

Similar to Texas A&M, I assume the worst for South Carolina until things change.

Clemson is not Tennessee. USC will likely fare more offensively against Florida than against the Vols.

The tigers are smarter too. You’ll know how to run the ball against the defense that allowed 374 rushing yards to Florida.

I take Clemson by 21 to 28 points.

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