From the start, this season was full of unpleasant surprises for Steve Spurrier. But the South Carolina coach usually can count on ending things with a win against Clemson.
The Gamecocks have won five in a row in the rivalry, covering the number each time in double-digit victories, and I’ll back them as 6½-point underdogs to the host Tigers today.
South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson has fond memories of Death Valley, lighting up Clemson for 310 passing yards and three touchdowns when he started in place of an injured Connor Shaw two years ago.
Tigers quarterback Deshaun Watson’s status remains a question mark, but even if he plays, he will be rusty and not completely healthy because of a knee injury. Watson has missed nearly all of the past six games.
Clemson (8-3) is mired in a 0-6 slump against the spread. Making matters worse, reports circulated Thursday that offensive coordinator Chad Morris is on his way out to become the coach at Southern Methodist.
Most important, Spurrier’s team is feeling good again after back-to-back wins, and the Gamecocks (6-5) can save their season by remaining state champs.
Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ North Carolina State (+6½) over NORTH CAROLINA — The Tar Heels have won by more than five points just twice this season. North Carolina State is 3-1 ATS in four games as an underdog. The Wolfpack will follow the lead of quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has a 19-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and has produced more than 2,600 yards of offense. Brissett will be facing a horrible North Carolina defense.
■ ALABAMA (-9) over Auburn — Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban’s team has been dominant at home, winning five of six games by 21 points or more. Alabama, which obviously has the huge revenge angle, is facing an Auburn defense that has been an unmitigated disaster since Oct. 11.
The Tigers have allowed at least 31 points in their past five Southeastern Conference games. They were fortunate to win road games against Kansas State and Mississippi, only to get destroyed at Mississippi State and Georgia.
Alabama quarterback Blake Sims has exceeded all expectations, throwing 19 touchdown passes to four interceptions. Sims has great weapons at his disposal, including the nation’s best wide receiver in Amari Cooper, not to mention explosive running back T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. I like the Tide to roll by at least two touchdowns.
■ Florida (+7½) over FLORIDA STATE — The Seminoles are 1-8 ATS when favored by more than seven this season. Florida has won outright in four of its past five trips to Tallahassee. The Gators have the more physical roster, the better defense and will have the best defensive game plan the Seminoles have seen this season.
Say what you want about outgoing coach Will Muschamp, but his players love him and will give an inspired effort at Doak Campbell Stadium. If Florida can win the turnover battle, it will have a great chance of carrying Muschamp off the field as a winner the same way Ron Zook went out in his final game as Florida’s coach a decade ago. Take the underdog and don’t be shocked if Florida State’s 11-0 season gets ruined.
■ Mississippi State (-2½) over MISSISSIPPI — The Rebels’ season died at the 1-inch line versus Auburn when star wideout Laquon Treadwell’s knee buckled and he fumbled. Nothing good has happened since for Mississippi, which took a 30-0 shellacking at Arkansas last week. Senior quarterback Bo Wallace, who was banged around by the Razorbacks, is pressing and has lost his confidence.
The Bulldogs, 3-1 straight up and ATS on the road, will keep their playoff hopes alive by winning behind the play of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Josh Robinson.
Last week: 5-2 against the spread
Brian Edwards of VegasInsider.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.