COLUMBIA — Death Valley, potentially the final home game for a Heisman Trophy contender, and last season’s national runner-up playing a rival coming off a losing record. No wonder the first betting line on this year’s South Carolina-Clemson game is a whopper.
The Golden Nugget sportsbook in Las Vegas on Friday released its annual games of the year, a list of 100 lines that includes the Palmetto State rivalry at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium on Nov. 26. The Tigers and junior quarterback Deshaun Watson were established as early 20.5-point favorites over the Gamecocks, who last season went 3-9.
The list included one other South Carolina game, Sept. 10 at Mississippi State, in which the Golden Nugget has listed the Bulldogs as 9.5-point favorites. Three other Clemson games were included, one in which the Tigers — who were ranked No. 1 for much of last season, and went unbeaten until losing the national championship game to Alabama — are an underdog.
That would be Oct. 29 at Florida State, which according to the sportsbook is an early 3.5-point favorite over the Tigers. The Seminoles went 10-3 last season, losing to Clemson 23-13 in Death Valley, and this year host the Tigers at Doak Campbell Stadium.
The Golden Nugget also has Clemson as solid favorites at Georgia Tech (by 12.5 points) and at home to Pittsburgh (by 15.5 points). The 20.5-point spread over USC is similar to the one Clemson was favored by entering last season’s game in Columbia, which the Tigers won 37-32. The Golden Nugget had Clemson as a 3-point favorite over USC in the preseason.
Last year’s preseason lines proved harbingers of the teams’ results to come. The 2015 list included six Clemson games — Louisville, Miami, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame and USC — all of which the Tigers were favorites in, and an early indicator of what would prove an undefeated regular season.
Meanwhile USC was installed as an underdog in 2015 games against Georgia, Missouri, LSU and Texas A&M, all of which the Gamecocks lost. The sports book did list South Carolina as a slight favorite in its home game against Florida, which the Gamecocks also dropped in a campaign that saw former head coach Steve Spurrier resign at midseason.
USC and new head coach Will Muschamp open the 2016 season at Vanderbilt on Sept. 1. Clemson opens at Auburn on Sept. 3. Neither of those games were included on the Golden Nugget’s list.
As for early lines on prominent national games: Oklahoma favored by 6.5 over Ohio State on Sept. 17, Georgia and Tennessee a pick-em on Oct. 1, Florida State favored by 7 over Miami on Oct. 8, Tennessee favored by 1 over Alabama on Oct. 15, and Alabama favored by 15 over Auburn on Nov. 26.