Missouri, South Carolina can scale tall point total

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s plans to be in the national title hunt this season are wrecked.

The Gamecocks have lost two games and are down to their backup quarterback for today’s Southeastern Conference test at Missouri.

The Tigers are 5-2 over the total, with their games averaging a combined score of 66.4 points. With the exception of last week’s 36-17 victory over Florida, every game for Missouri has had at least 60 combined points. But the Gators are one of the lowest-scoring teams in the nation, playing to an average combined score of just 37.4 points.

The Tigers (7-0) did not miss a beat without star quarterback James Franklin, who separated his shoulder two weeks ago and remains out. Even with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk making his first career start, Missouri produced 500 yards of total offense against the nation’s fourth-ranked defense.

Mauk threw for 295 yards and one touchdown and also scored on a 17-yard run. He has talent galore around him, including a deep set of wide receivers and a trio of capable running backs.

L’Damian Washington and Dorial Green-Beckham have combined to haul in 62 receptions for 990 yards and nine touchdowns. The running back trio of Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy and Russell Hansbrough has combined to rush for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns.

South Carolina (5-2) is going with backup Dylan Thompson at quarterback after Connor Shaw injured his knee in last week’s loss at Tennessee. Thompson has experience and was the catalyst in last year’s 27-17 win at Clemson, passing for 310 yards and three touchdowns.

There’s no reason to downgrade the Gamecocks’ offense with Thompson under center. South Carolina sophomore Mike Davis is enjoying a breakout season, rushing for 879 yards and averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Davis’ production creates a lot of play-action opportunities, and the thinking here is that Thompson is going to be ready to take advantage.

Five of South Carolina’s seven games have combined for 53 points or more, and its games have averaged a combined 55.3 points. Missouri is a 3-point favorite, but my best bet is over the total of 53.

Four more plays for today (home team in CAPS):

■ Buffalo (-1) over KENT STATE — The Bulls have won five in a row and covered their past four games. In each of those four, Buffalo won by 28 points or more, while getting solid quarterback play from Joe Licata. Kent State won 11 games last season but has limped to a 2-6 record, losing five games by 14 points or more. The Golden Flashes are 0-3 ATS at home. I made Buffalo a 7-point favorite.

■ Vanderbilt (+17) over TEXAS A&M — All of the Aggies’ goals vanished with last week’s stunning loss to Auburn. Where is coach Kevin Sumlin’s team from an emotional standpoint now? Meanwhile, the Commodores are coming off their best win of the year, upsetting Georgia in comeback fashion.

Vanderbilt lost starting quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels to a leg injury last week, but redshirt freshman Patton Robinette played well and rallied the team from a double-digit deficit to a 31-27 victory. More than anything, this play is about going against a Texas A&M defense that is one of the worst in the country. I made this number 14.

■ Tennessee (+28½) over ALABAMA — I made this number 23½. It appeared the Volunteers had another garbage team in September, but coach Butch Jones has done an outstanding job. I’m still not overly fond of quarterback Justin Worley, but he has not committed a turnover in nearly a month, and I like wide receivers Pig Howard and Marquez North.

The Tennessee defense has forced 17 turnovers and goes to Tuscaloosa with confidence. The Volunteers have been underdogs four times this season, compiling a 3-1 record against the spread. I’ll take the huge underdog in this rivalry, which has seen the road team go 14-3-1 ATS in the past 18 meetings.

■ Tennessee-ALABAMA (Over 52) — This play is based on feel more than anything. Tennessee has seen the “over” cash at a 4-2 clip in its past six games, and the Volunteers have averaged a combined score of 57.4 points. The Crimson Tide will score at least 38 to push this over the total.

Last week: 2-3 against the spread

Season: 18-21-2

Brian Edwards of Sportsmemo.com and BrianEdwardsSports.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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