*South Carolina -2.5 (-114) vs Kentucky
*This line has since moved to -3 (-110) at most books & is still a play at that number. I did see Draftkings NJ touch -3.5 and would wait to see if a 3 pops before laying the hook.
There are several reasons to fade Kentucky this week, but I’ll start with one of my favorite situational spots – the dreaded back-to-back road trip. Kentucky only managed 13 points on the road at Mississippi State last week and now head into Columbia for a night game with QB Sawyer Smith banged-up. Mind you, UK already lost starting QB Terry Wilson for the season due to a knee injury. I should add that Smith is a transfer-QB from Troy that led his team to 10 wins last year (shout out Neal Brown), but he’s now taking a big step up in competition with a bum shoulder.
Smith also has an injured wrist that he suffered two weeks ago making a tackle in the Florida game after throwing an interception. He then suffered a big hit in the 2nd quarter of the Mississippi State game that forced him to the locker room for x-rays of his throwing shoulder. After halftime, Smith returned to the game but finished 15 for 41 (36.6%) for 232 yards and 1 INT. The medical staff said there was no structural damage and allowed him to gut it out, but I question what the ramifications of throwing 26 passes in the 2nd half (completed 8) on an injured shoulder will be. Coach Stoops commented on Smith’s status Monday saying “We’ll see. He was definitely sore yesterday. He wouldn’t have been able to throw any passes yesterday at all.”
I’ve read that Smith was able to throw today, and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said Smith was “a little bit sore.” I’m just not buying that he’ll be anywhere near 100% by Saturday, but even if he is, he has the 41st ranked defense (S&P+) awaiting him. He also has 5 turnovers in his last 40 drop backs, so it may be a blessing if he does play.
As for South Carolina, every game feels like a must-win for HC Will Muschamp and he’s already said just that in yesterday’s press conference. South Carolina is also dealing with a minor elbow injury to their QB Hilinski, but I’m much less concerned with his injury. He played through the injury in last week’s game, and while he struggled, it was also a true freshman’s first road start in the SEC against a good Missouri team. After earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors against Alabama at home (completed 63% of his passes for 324 yards), I trust Hilinski to bounce back at home. Coach Muschamp said yesterday, “The way I saw him respond on Sunday and the way I saw him respond on Monday and Tuesday has been really good. He made every throw today. He looked great and there’s been absolutely no cut of reps or anything. He looks great.”
NCAAF Record: 11-4-2 for +6.7 units
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