College Sports

What Vegas Thinks: Knoxville road favorites? That doesn’t happen often for Gamecocks

South Carolina football is set to face SEC East rival Tennessee on the road this Saturday. With a 3-4 record, the Gamecocks are favorites against the 2-5 Volunteers — as of Wednesday afternoon, the spread for the game favors USC by 4.5 points.

The Vols are dealing with an uncertain quarterback situation — freshman Brian Maurer took over for embattled senior Jarrett Guarantano midway though the season, but he’s suffered concussions in back-to-back weeks and is “probably doubtful” to play Saturday, according to coach Jeremy Pruitt.

The Gamecocks, meanwhile, have a healthy quarterback in freshman Ryan Hilinski, but will be missing their starting running back in senior Rico Dowdle.

Ahead of Saturday’s game, The State spoke with longtime gambling industry reporter David Purdum, of ESPN Chalk, to get his thoughts on the betting side of USC-UT.

The State: The line doesn’t appear to be moving too much. What have you been seeing and where has the money been flowing?

David Purdum: Four a half it opened up, dipped to 4 at some places, moved to 5 just a little bit ago when I was looking ... so there has a little bit of movement toward South Carolina. I don’t know if that indicates something with the Tennessee quarterback situation. However, because the game has not been off the board or what they would call circled, where they would take lower limits on that game, I don’t think that quarterback situation is that impactful on the line of this game.

Whether they got the starter (Brian Maurer), Jarrett Guarantano, or that new guy that they’re thinking about (J.T. Shrout), those three guys seem to be, the difference between them is not evident in the spread for sure.

TS: In a situation like that where it seems extremely unlikely Maurer will play, are the sportsbooks operating under the assumption that he won’t?

DP: I would think that’s the consensus right now is that he would not play. If for some reason he did and then the line moved down, that would be notable, where as right now we’re kinda tinkering between 4.5 and 5. That’s not a huge difference when you really think about the margin of victory.

The other thing I noticed, this is only the third time that South Carolina has been a road favorite over Tennessee in the last 25 years. So they have not been favored very often in Knoxville.

TS: This series has a reputation as of late for producing close, unexpected results. Have the sportsbooks been burned by that? Against the spread, how is South Carolina?

DP: Well, South Carolina is 9-12-2 against the spread in the last 23 meetings. So, you know, that’s somewhere in the range. It’s not like South Carolina is 2-20. It’s always hard to judge how the books do by the lines because while they set the opening line, the betting market really shapes them.

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Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.