Depending on your source the spread on the South Carolina - Vanderbilt game is either 6.5 or 7 points in the Gamecocks favor. For those who aren't very familiar with betting odds, generally speaking the spread means the number of points South Carolina should win the game by.
The spread or line is set by the sports book, often in Las Vegas, to maximize the number of bets that will be placed. That's the line's primary purpose, but it also has a secondary purpose of predicting the winner of the game. Based on the line, we can assign the likelihood of South Carolina winning the game. Historical figures show that a team that is favored by 6.5 points will win the game outright 70% of the time.
A 70% chance of opening the season 1-0 should be a comfort to Gamecock fans apprehensive about Thursday night. They should also take solace in knowing that on paper the Gamecocks are a superior team. Of course, the game isn't played on paper, so there is still a 30% chance USC can lose. If the Gamecocks defy the odds and lose, there will be some signs to look for.
Big plays. Vanderbilt needs big plays to stay in the game. If both teams play their games, USC will come out on top. The Commodores can change that with a few big plays.
Turnovers. More than most anything, turnovers are the great equalizer. An offense cannot put points on the board if they give the ball away. In last year's game South Carolina turned the ball over 4 times and still won by 3 scores. They won't be able to do that this season.
Early momentum. This game is being billed as one of the biggest in recent Commodore history. Their program is on a (perceived) upward trajectory. A win in this game will solidify that momentum. Vandy needs some things to go their way early to keep the crowd in the game and make the players believe they can win. If USC grabs early momentum, it will be difficult of the Vanderbilt to believe they can win, comeback and overcome the slow start.
Hanging around. If the talent difference between South Carolina and Vanderbilt isn't too great, (it probably isn't) the Commodores can get a turnover or a big play late to steal a win. It is important for South Carolina to get the game in hand early or they will have to fret over any late game heroics.
Avoid those four things, and it should be a comfortable night for Carolina fans. If they don't allow Vanderbilt any big plays, don't turn the ball over, kill any Commodore early momentum and put them away early, we can all relax by halftime.
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