Vegas Free College Football Pick: South Carolina vs Appalachian State

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One week after suffering their first loss of the season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers venture into SEC territory to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST on Saturday, November 9 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina. The game can be seen on ESPN2.

According to our Week 11 college football odds, the Gamecocks are 5-point favorites at home. The game also has an over/under of 51 points.

South Carolina vs Appalachian State Vegas Odds & Game Preview

For the second week in a row, the Gamecocks are in must-win mode. With their backs against the wall, South Carolina knocked off SEC East rival Vanderbilt last week to improve to snap a two-game losing skid and improve to 4-5 on the season. Officially, the Gamecocks need to win two of their final three games of the season. However, they’ll face in-state rival Clemson the final week. Barring an upset in that game, South Carolina needs to win their next two games to get to six wins. A road game against Texas A&M next week won’t be easy. But the Gamecocks first need to take care of business against the reigning Sun Belt champions.

Speaking of the Mountaineers, they’ll be trying to avoiding dropping two games in a row after suffering their first loss of the season last week. Appalachian State had been 7-0 and ranked in the top-25 until falling to rival Georgia Southern last week. Now they have to shift their focus away from the Sun Belt title race and try to make a statement against an SEC opponent. Of course, the Mountaineers have nothing to lose from this game after already locking up a bowl bid. It’s also worth noting that Appalachian State beat North Carolina earlier this season and took Penn State to overtime in their 2018 season opener, so they are no stranger to playing power-conference teams in big environments.

This will be the first game between South Carolina and Appalachian State in over 30 years. The two schools last met in 1988 when the Mountaineers were a 1-AA program. The Gamecocks and Mountaineers also met in six straight seasons in the 1970s when both were 1-A level independent programs. The Gamecocks won five of those six meetings, all of which were played in Columbia.

Free NCAAF Betting Prediction: South Carolina -5

I respect everything Appalachian State has accomplished this year and how far they’ve come as a program in such a short period of time. But I don’t see them beating an SEC team on the road. There’s no chance of the Gamecocks overlooking App State. South Carolina is desperate for a win and will leave nothing to chance. If they bring their best effort, the Gamecocks have the athletes to win this game by a comfortable margin. I’ll put my faith in South Carolina to win and cover the 5-point spread.

As mentioned, the Mountaineers won on the road against North Carolina earlier this year. But that was against a young UNC team coming off two big wins that might have overlooked App State just a little. The Mountaineers also benefited from three UNC turnovers in that game that gave them one defensive touchdown and a short field on another. Take those away and it would have been a different game. I’m not sure Appalachian State can count on South Carolina beating themselves in this game. They’ll have to prove that they can beat the Gamecocks straight up, which I’m not sure they can do.

Even in defeat, the one thing South Carolina has done consistently this season is contain the opposing team’s running game. The Gamecocks have been vulnerable through the air at times, but even against the likes of Alabama and Georgia, they’ve held up well against the run. South Carolina’s physical front-7 might be the biggest challenge the Mountaineers face in this game.

Appalachian State has to run the ball effectively to win this game; there’s no getting around it. While quarterback Zac Thomas has made good strides as a passer this season, I’m not sure he can complete a high percentage of passes against an SEC defense if he doesn’t have a productive running game to support him. Obviously, the Mountaineers have been productive on the ground for most of the season. They wouldn’t be 7-1 if they didn’t. But running the ball against South Carolina will be far more difficult than running against Sun Belt teams.

On the other side of the ball, South Carolina’s size and athleticism on offense could pose a problem for the App State defense. On the season, the Mountaineers are giving up less than 20 points per game, largely because they’ve been able to hold Sun Belt teams in check. But in some of their early-season wins, the Mountaineers had some defensive issues, not only against North Carolina but against the likes of Charlotte and Coastal Carolina as well. That concerns me against a team like South Carolina that has two strong running backs in Tavien Feaster and Rico Dowdle, as well as Bryan Edwards, one of the top wide receivers in the SEC.

All things considered, I think South Carolina has enough talent to overwhelm Appalachian State and win by a comfortable margin. Typically, it takes an SEC team overlooking a Sun Belt team to create an upset in a game like this. South Carolina won’t let that happen in a must-win game, so I’ll lean toward the Gamecocks to win and cover.

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