South Carolina vs. East Carolina Odds & Pick: Your Betting Guide for Week 2’s Matchup (September 11)
John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Holton Ahlers.
- South Carolina looks to start its season 2-0 against nearby rival East Carolina.
- Coming off an unlucky season, the Pirates match up well against the Gamecocks, who are coached by first-year man Shane Beamer.
- Mike Ianniello breaks down the matchup and delivers his betting pick below.
South Carolina vs. East Carolina Odds
|South Carolina Odds|
-110o / -105u
|East Carolina Odds|
-115o / -105u
The bottom fell out for South Carolina last season, finishing just 2-8, the worst record for the program since going 0-11 in 1999. Will Muschamp was fired after seven games, with offensive coordinator Mike Bobo serving as the interim for the final three games.
It was a bit of a surprise hire when the Gamecocks hired 44-year-old Shane Beamer, who has no prior head coaching experience and hadn’t even served as offensive or defensive coordinator.
Beamer is known for being an incredibly well-liked guy, and he returns to South Carolina after serving on the defensive staff in various roles from 2007-10.
East Carolina is in its third season under Mike Houston, who came from James Madison after going 37-6 in three seasons and winning the FCS National Championship in 2016.
The Gamecocks have won four straight matchups against the Pirates but prior to that, ECU won five out of the seven games these two played between 1991 and ’99.
The Beamer era officially began last week with an easy 46-0 win over Eastern Illinois. Eastern Illinois did finish 1-5 in the spring season, though, and is one of the worst teams in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Despite the lower competition, the Gamecocks took care of business. Eastern Illinois managed just 109 yards, while South Carolina racked up 443 without their star running back and starting quarterback.
Zeb Noland was hired to be a grad assistant for South Carolina this year but with quarterback Luke Doty in a walking boot, he was forced into playing duty and got the start. The former Iowa State and North Dakota State backup QB went 13-for-22 for 121 yards and four touchdowns in his call to action.
With a trip to Georgia on deck, this a big game for South Carolina before it begins the SEC slate.
The star of this Gamecocks offense is running back Kevin Harris. He was second team All-SEC last season after leading the conference with 113.8 rushing yards per game while averaging over six yards per carry.
Harris missed the team’s season opener last week as he continued to deal with lingering effects from an offseason procedure on his back. He’s expected to play on Saturday, but it remains to be seen what his workload will look like.
Also expected to return to the lineup is quarterback Luke Doty. Ryan Hilinski and Collin Hill have both moved on, leaving Doty as the incumbent starter pretty much by default.
He appeared in eight games last season, averaging 50.6 passing yards per game for two touchdowns and three interceptions. He generated just two big-time throws and seven turnover-worthy plays last year.
The team lost dominant wide receiver Shi Smith to the Carolina Panthers and does not return a single wide receiver with more than 10 catches. Tight end Nick Muse should be the focal point of the passing attack, and he caught a touchdown pass in the team’s opener.
The Gamecocks defense was one of the worst in the country last year. They finished 124th in defensive Rushing Success and 109th in defensive Passing Success. Teams averaged 36 points per game and 451 yards per game against them.
Only 41% of defensive TARP will return this season, the lowest of any roster in the SEC by far. South Carolina lost leading tacklers Ernest Jones and Jammie Robinson, as well as star cornerback Jaycee Horn.
South Carolina does return edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, who led the team in sacks. Outside of him, though, it ranked 123rd in Havoc rate and was outside of the top 100 in Line Yards and Sack Rate and gave opposing quarterbacks all day to pick apart the secondary.
Defensive coordinator Clayton White comes in from Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers ranked 28th in total defense last season and were eighth against the pass. He will transition this South Carolina defense to a 4-2-5, which will require much better play from the linebacker unit.
Last season’s 3-6 record is not really a fair representation of the 2020 East Carolina team. The Pirates took a 30-27 lead over Tulsa with less than 5 minutes to go and looked poised to pull off the upset before three — let’s call them “controversial” — calls allowed Tulsa to extend a late drive for the go-ahead score with 29 seconds remaining.
That Tulsa game that should have resulted in a victory came one week after a close loss to Navy with quarterback Holton Ahlers out with an injury. The Pirates went 5-4 against the spread and easily could have been 5-4 straight-up, as well.
The season ended with two beatdown wins over Temple and SMU to give the team momentum in the offseason.
ECU lost 33-19 in the season opener to Appalachian State, which has been one of the best Group of Five programs. The Pirates were unable to get any pressure on Chase Brice and really struggled to run the ball, but Ahlers threw for 295 and two touchdowns.
Ahlers is in his fourth season as the starting quarterback for East Carolina and has tossed 53 touchdowns in his career for the Pirates to go with 13 on the ground.
East Carolina returns 10 starters on offense, including the entire offensive line, which needs to be much better in protecting Ahlers.
The Pirates ranked just 96th in Line Yards and 103rd in Havoc rate last season and will need to rely on experience to improve quickly.
Besides giving Ahlers time, the line will also be tasked with opening holes for star running back Rahjai Harris, who averaged 78 yards per game as a true freshman and was named the AAC Rookie of the Year last season. Harris and fellow second-year back Keaton Mitchell give the Pirates a dynamic one-two punch.
Keaton Mitchell is faster than every player on the field @ECUPiratesFB
— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 2, 2021
The running backs aren’t the only weapons on this offense, which returns all of its pass catchers except one. Tyler Snead led the Pirates in catches last year, and deep threat C.J. Johnson led the team in touchdowns and averaged 21.3 yards per catch.
The offense averaged over 30 points and 400 yards per game last year and will once again be the strength for the Buccos.
The defense is the big question for this East Carolina team. The Pirates were torched last year for 447 yards and 35 points per game, ranking 102nd in the country. They struggled in both areas defensively, allowing over 225 yards rushing in five games and over 300 yards passing four times.
Just like the offense, though, the defense returns 10 starters and should take a big step forward just based on experience alone. Seven of the returning starters are still only sophomores or redshirt freshmen.
Xavier Smith and Jireh Wilson anchor what has the potential to be a much-improved linebacker corps. They were the team’s two leading tacklers last season and have a ton of speed and an ability to fly all over the field.
The backend was picked apart last season, but it does have a baller roaming around in the secondary with cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian. He was tied for the AAC lead with four interceptions and is an excellent tackler, as well. McMillan led the team with 10 tackles in the season opener against Appalachian State.
Despite getting torched through the air at times, the Pirates secondary did have the 20th-best Coverage grade in the country last season, according to Pro Football Focus. ECU just needs the front seven to get more of a pass rush so the secondary does not get left out to try.
South Carolina vs. East Carolina Matchup Analysis
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South Carolina Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
East Carolina Offense vs. South Carolina Defense
Pace of Play / Other
South Carolina vs. East Carolina Betting Pick
This line has been bouncing all over the place. It opened South Carolina -1.5 and then swung to ECU as the favorite, even going as high as -3.5 in some places. Then it swung all the way back to South Carolina favored, as high as -2.5.
At the time of this writing on Thursday afternoon, South Carolina is around -2 at most places. Our Action Network PRO report is also all over the place with 79% of the money and 83% of the bets are coming in on South Carolina. Yet five sharp action moves have been played on the Pirates.
Our Action Network PRO Projections make this game ECU -4.4, providing a ton of value on the Pirates, which I am happy to take.
The biggest weakness for this Pirates team is clearly its defense. While Harris, if healthy, will be able to take advantage of that, I do not trust Doty and the South Carolina passing attack to be able to.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks defense was one of the worst in the nation last year and is transitioning to an entire new system. East Carolina’s offense is experienced and explosive and should have the ability to move the ball both through the air and on the ground against the Gamecocks defense.
I will back the Pirates as a home underdog here and think they can full off the upset at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. BetMGM has the best moneyline for ECU as of Thursday afternoon.