Florida vs. South Carolina prediction, line: Bet on Gators, Kyle Trask

Before last season, Alabama never missed the College Football Playoff. Before last season, Nick Saban had been in position to win for the eighth time in nine national championships. Auburn’s legendary “Kick Six” had been the lone exception.

Then, Joe Burrow met Joe Brady, and LSU became an unstoppable juggernaut, beating Alabama for the first time in eight years. That LSU team was another outlier. Alabama would reclaim control of the SEC with Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, and the core of last season’s national championship LSU team off to the NFL.

Except another exception is lurking.

This year, Kyle Trask could do for Gainesville what Burrow did for Baton Rouge, and lead Florida to its first conference title since 2008 — not coincidentally, the last time the Gators beat the Crimson Tide.

Inserted as starter in the middle of last season, Trask was a revelation, leading the Gators to their best end-year ranking (No. 6) in a decade. With an offseason to prepare for his first full season as a starter since high school, the senior looks ready to make a Burrow-like leap after throwing for 416 yards and six touchdowns. He completed 71.4 percent of his passes in No. 3 Florida’s season-opening win. It was the most passing yards by a Gators quarterback in a conference game since 2001. It was the scariest sight the SEC — and Saban — could see.

The next FLORIDA (-17.5) onslaught hits South Carolina on Saturday.

(Home team in CAPS.)

Tcu (+11.5) over TEXAS

The Longhorns’ first moderate test of the season ended with them allowing seven touchdowns and 447 total yards in a 63-56 OT win at Texas Tech last week. Rutgers once thought highly of Chris Ash, too.

Missouri (+11.5) over TENNESSEE

The latest sign of 2020 chaos? Tennessee has the longest winning streak of any Power Five team. But an eighth straight win won’t come easily for the Volunteers, who barely escaped South Carolina after converting 1 of 12 third downs.

Texas A&M (+17) over ALABAMA

The Aggies are 1-7 against top-10 teams since Jimbo Fisher took over. In 2018, Alabama easily won this matchup, 45-23, Last year, the Tide rolled to a 47-28 victory. What’s different this time? Tua Tagovailoa is in the NFL.

North Carolina (-13.5) over BOSTON COLLEGE

The Tar Heels haven’t played in three weeks. Allow their quarterback Sam Howell — who threw 38 touchdown passes last season — to remind you why he was a Heisman dark horse.

South Florida (+23) over CINCINNATI

The Bearcats have found heavy support across sportsbooks for good reason. But two weeks of preparation, and confidence from last year’s last-second loss, will make a Bulls betting slip more valuable.

KANSAS (+20.5) over Oklahoma State

Where art thou, Mason Rudolph? The once high-powered Cowboys offense is averaging 21.5 points through two games.

Memphis (-2.5) over SMU: COVID-19 concerns have kept the Tigers sidelined since Sept. 5, but SMU isn’t ready for the significant jump in competition after opening against three intramural opponents. The over (74.5) should be safe, with two star senior quarterbacks (Memphis’ Brady White, SMU’s Shane Buechele) set to recreate last year’s 54-48 Memphis win.

IOWA STATE (+7) over Oklahoma

Like I said last week, even Lincoln Riley can’t snap his fingers and immediately turn Sooners redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler — who threw three interceptions and didn’t lead his team to any fourth-quarter points, while blowing a 21-point lead to Kansas State — into another Heisman winner. Oklahoma followed last year’s upset against Kansas State with a one-point win over Iowa State, whose all-time sack leader (JaQuan Bailey) will keep Rattler uncomfortable.

Auburn (+6.5) over GEORGIA

The Bulldogs have won three straight in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry, but Kirby Smart has no clear-cut choice at quarterback after three years of stability with Jake Fromm. Auburn’s emerging star, Bo Nix, is a better option than any of the three quarterbacks who might lead Georgia’s unproven offense.

Lsu (-20.5) over VANDERBILT

Pretend last season at LSU never happened. You didn’t treat the 1998 Florida Marlins or 1999 Chicago Bulls like defending champions, did you? Still, reverting to their previous existence simply means the Tigers will be — at worst — one of the best 18 teams in the country, just like 14 of the previous 16 years.

Tulsa (+22.5) over UCF

The Golden Hurricane — I’m not sure I’ve ever typed that with a straight face — showed they could stand toe-to-toe with a ranked opponent in a 16-7 loss to Oklahoma State. After last year’s win, Tulsa already knows it can challenge the mistake-prone Knights, who have 27 penalties through two games.

Arkansas (+17.5) over MISSISSIPPI STATE

The late start to the season offers the opportunity to take advantage of more overreactions than ever. Mississippi State isn’t suddenly a superpower after dismantling LSU and Mike Leach still doesn’t have the defense to match his aerial attack, just like when his teams at Washington State finished unranked in seven of the past eight years.

CLEMSON (-28) over Virginia

In the past two weeks, Trevor Lawrence has made nine in-game throws. Travis Etienne has had eight carries. Dabo Swinney’s stars are going to need to get some work in before the top-ranked team in the country faces No. 8 Miami next week. Last year’s margin (62-17) in the ACC title win over Virginia isn’t out of reach.

Best bets: Iowa State, Tulsa, Clemson
This season (Best bets): 26-16 (4-5)
2014-19 record: 772-756-13

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