Week 3 College Football Free Pick - Kentucky at South Carolina
The Wildcats (2-0) and Gamecocks (2-0) both needed second-half rallies to win their Week 2 contests. However, Kentucky's hard-fought victory came against in-state foe Eastern Kentucky – of the FCS. South Carolina posted 17 points in the final two quarters to beat Missouri, 31-13.
FREE PICK: Kentucky +6.5 at South Carolina (Covers 56.5%)
South Carolina may have outscored their first two opponents 66-41, but the offense is far from elite. When you dig into box scores, know that quarterback Jake Bentley passed for 215 yards and three touchdowns against North Carolina State – 98th in pass defense. In Week 2, USC-East rushed for 172 yards and two touchdowns against the Tigers – 82nd against the rush.
The Gamecocks defense and special teams are the main reason this team is 2-0. The D has forced five turnovers and wide receiver Deebo Samuel has returned two kickoffs – one in each game – for touchdowns. Without the forced turnovers and Samuel's special teams spark, this is a very beatable (see: coverable) South Carolina squad. With seven starters returning to a defense that allowed 32 points per game the second half of the 2016 season, head coach Will Muschamp will sweat out some games along with the betting public.
The Wildcats - who return 18 starters - beat South Carolina, 17-10, in Lexington last September. They also won five out of their last seven regular season games – including an upset of Louisville - before Georgia Tech beat ‘em up in the Taxslayer Bowl, 33-18.
Although Kentucky's first two games of 2017 have left little to be desired aesthetically as they rank 100th in total offense, the defense is +4 in turnover margin and dual-threat quarterback Stephen Johnson has accounted for two scores – one pass, one rush – in each of the first two games.
According to 50,000 games played by our simulation engine at PredictionMachine.com, Kentucky wins over South Carolina 40.3% of the time with an average losing score of 28.5 to 26.2. As a 6.5-point underdog losing by an average margin of just 2.3 points, the Wildcats cover the spread 56.5% of the time, which would justify a $43 wager for an average $50 bettor.