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ANYONE BESIDES ME THINK SOUTH CAROLINA IS TOO BIG A FAVORITE ON THE ROAD?
The return of Alshon Jeffery and Marcus Lattimore have a lot to do with the lofty goals of the No. 12 Gamecocks, who face East Carolina at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium in their opener Saturday night. South Carolina is coming off a surprising year that peaked with an appearance in the SEC title game. However, a disappointing finish left the team wanting more.
After a promising 9-3 regular season, the Gamecocks lost 56-17 to Auburn in the title game before suffering a 26-17 defeat to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. While I don't doubt the Gamecocks are prepared for a matchup against a great offensive team, I think the lack of defense ECU puts on the field could be the only reason SCU covers this 3 TD spread.
One player who has particularly struggled under pressure has been quarterback Stephen Garcia, who was suspended a fifth time for "unacceptable behavior" at a life-skills seminar in April. Garcia was partially reinstated for summer workouts in May and was allowed to resume all team activities in early August.
Although Garcia said he considered leaving the program, he was convinced to stay on by teammates, who see him as key to returning to the conference title game. Garcia threw for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns last year. However, Spurrier named Connor Shaw the starting quarterback for Saturday's game. The coach said the sophomore had outperformed Garcia, who will play the second quarter - with the second half playing time up for grabs.
East Carolina is looking to bounce back after going 6-7 last year, losing five of its final six games. The Pirates were last in the FBS in yards allowed per game (478.8) and second-to-last in average points given up (44.0). Dominique Davis will lead the offense again. He threw for 3,967 yards, 37 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last year, quickly picking up the spread offense after transferring from Boston College. East Carolina has won two of the last three against South Carolina, with the last meeting coming in 1999. The Gamecocks lead the series 10-5.
While I don't doubt the Gamecocks are prepared for a matchup against a great offensive team, I think the lack of defense ECU puts on the field could determine whether SCU covers this 3 TD spread and the Pirates wind up beating themselves.
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