Welcome to the first edition of Pick Six, a new weekly column published every Thursday where the RTI Team plus a weekly guest picker will call their shots on six games every week. We’ll do our best to pick the most competitive games each week and will focus heavily on the SEC. Spreads are listed and will occasionally be mentioned in the comments. We’ll keep a running tally of records (straight up, not ATS) throughout the year and compare those to how Vegas fared.
This week’s guest picker is Zach Ragan who covers the Vols for AllForTennessee.com. If you’re not following his work, you should be. He’s calling for several upsets this week, as you’ll see below.
No. 21 Texas A&M at No. 9 South Carolina (-10.5) TV: SEC Network 6 pm Thursday
Daniel: Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans took much of the attention off of Texas A&M’s horrendous defense last year. Now Manziel and Evans are gone, but some of those defensive flaws likely are not. I think A&M is heading in the right direction as a program under Kevin Sumlin, though this year very well could be a step back for the Aggies. I like their offensive line and players like Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil give them some playmakers on the perimeter. But South Carolina, even remaking itself a bit in the post-Clowney era, has the overall talent and experience edge and should be too much at home in this one. Winner: South Carolina, 34-21.
Houston: Dylan Thompson officially takes over as QB1 for South Carolina and I think he starts the season off in style. I think Carolina will come out sloppy (they tend to in openers) but rebound nicely in the second half and pull away late on a cheap touchdown pass or two. South Carolina running back Mike Davis has been injured for most of the preseason and looks like he may see limited action, if any, in this game. Carolina will need Davis if they want to make it to Atlanta, but not to get past the Aggies. Winner: South Carolina, 30-20.
Reed: The Aggies begin the post-Manziel era while the Gamecocks look to replace the vastly underrated Connor Shaw – he was 27-5 as a starting QB and a perfect 17-0 at home. It’s Dylan Thompson’s team now and though Thompson struggled in his lone start for an injured Shaw last year, he was more than impressive in relief of Shaw in 2012 when he threw for 1,027 yards, 10 TDs and just two interceptions. Texas A&M’s defense ranked dead last in the SEC last year and simply won’t be able to slow USCe’s offense. To make matters worse for Sumlin’s squad, sophomore Kenny Hill will be making his first start at QB for the Aggies and odds are he won’t be able to outscore the Gamecocks. This is an interesting game due to the revamped rosters of both teams, but I don’t think it will be close. South Carolina’s superior defense and edge in experience wins the day. Winner: Gamecocks, 38-24.
Zach: South Carolina and Texas A&M will both be breaking in new starting quarterbacks when they take the field on Thursday evening. The Aggies will turn to Kenny Hill, while South Carolina will have fifth year senior Dylan Thompson under center. Clearly the experience advantage will go to South Carolina. The Gamecocks, who are a trendy pick to win the SEC East this year, should have no problem covering the spread against Texas A&M at home. I don’t think the game will be all that close. Winner: South Carolina, 31-14.