As part of an up-and-down season for the Gamecocks, South Carolina opened the season with an embarrassing home loss to Texas A&M, in which it gave up 680 yards, only to win over current Top 25 teams in our College Football Power Rankings East Carolina (#25) and Georgia (#7), and then barely get by Vanderbilt on the road last week. While the Gamecocks rocky road thus far has been very public, Missouri has been in a similar situation. The Tigers returned the fewest number of starters in the SEC from 2013 and it shows with inconsistency on the field. With respect to the final scores, the Tigers dominated both Toledo and UCF before losing a close game against Indiana at home last week. The wins for Mizzou were not as obvious and the close loss not necessarily that close. When the two SEC East contenders meet at South Carolina this weekend, the teams' true colors should shine through to illustrate the road team as more pretender than contender.
South Carolina currently ranks 19th in our College Football Power Rankings. The Gamecocks are 3-1 straight-up and just 1-3 against-the-spread versus the nation's seventh toughest schedule to-date. Steve Spurrier's squad is averaging 36.8 points-per-game while allowing 36.0. Accounting for competition, South Carolina evaluates as having a top 20 run and pass offense from an efficiency standpoint. The team has been led offensively as of late by junior running back Mike Davis who averaged 5.8 yards-per-carry while gaining 1,183 yards on the ground last season. This is worth mentioning because Davis entered Week 1 hobbled by a preseason injury and was only able to touch the ball seven times in that game (he did not even start). Healthier now, Davis has meant a major difference in the team's offensive resurgence, which has actually worked his name back into Heisman talks. South Carolina does struggle against the pass - as evidenced by Kenny Hill's dominant day for the Aggies to start the season - but Missouri only throws the ball 45.6 percent of the time. Even with a game against Todd Gurley and Georgia in the numbers, South Carolina has been better at containing the run.
After the heart breaking loss to Indiana, Missouri currently sits at #35 in our power rankings. The Tigers are 3-1 straight-up (including an FCS victory) and 2-1 against-the-spread. As alluded to earlier, both FBS wins were not as impressive as the final scores look. Missouri only out-gained UCF by 23 yards of offense in its 38-10 victory over the Knights and the Tigers knocked out Toledo's starting quarterback and still only out-gained the Rockets 502 to 410. Missouri has faced the 38th ranked schedule for the 2014 season. The Tigers have a potent offense with Maty Mauk at quarterback and four players with double-digit carries. The Tigers rank 18th in pass efficiency and 33rd in running. Unfortunately for them and, particularly for this matchup, Mizzou struggles against the run, currently ranking 79th in our run defense rankings. Tevin Coleman ran for 132 yards on just 19 carries for Indiana last week. Mike Davis could do something similar to break this game open on Saturday.
Two offenses that are better than the defenses they are facing will square off in South Carolina. The Gamecocks have the most balanced offense, the most dynamic offensive player and the best comparable matchup. This is also a game between two teams with top 25 home field advantage values. Instead of a three point swing from one venue to the other (six point net difference from playing this game in Missouri), the total difference in the final margin based on South Carolina playing at home versus on the road is roughly nine points. Plus, the high tempo, high scoring nature of this contest makes a touchdown or greater final score difference more likely than in a lower scoring game.
According to 50,000 games played by the Predictalator, South Carolina wins on average 65 percent of the time and by an average score of 41-30. As 5.5 point favorites winning by double-digits, South Carolina covers the spread 58 percent of the time, which would warrant a $59 wager from a normal $50 player. FBS games involving either of these teams have averaged 67.2 points-per-game this season. The total is 62. The OVER covers 60 percent of the time, enough to justify a $77 play from a normal $50 bettor. There are five stronger against-the-spread picks and three stronger totals on Saturday.