COLUMBIA — Clemson will be favored in every big game it plays this coming football season, while South Carolina — well, let’s just say the Gamecocks had better get used to being a double-digit underdog.
That’s the opinion of the Golden Nugget sports book, which offered Las Vegas’ first real glimpse of the 2015 college football season. The casino released spreads on its annual games of the year on Friday, and among the 166 contests were six each involving Clemson and South Carolina — including the annual in-state rivalry set for Nov. 28 at Williams-Brice Stadium.
For Clemson fans, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic. According to the oddsmakers, the Tigers are 3-point favorites at Louisville on Sept. 17, 3.5-point favorites at home to Notre Dame on Oct. 3, 3-point favorites at home to Georgia Tech on Oct. 10, 4.5-point favorites at Miami on Oct. 24, and 2-point favorites at home to Florida State on Oct. 31.
The Golden Nugget has also installed Clemson as a 3-point favorite at South Carolina, meaning the Tigers will almost certainly be favored in every game they play this season. The Clemson games not included in the casino’s list are home contests against Wofford, Appalachian State, Boston College and Wake Forest, and road games at Syracuse and North Carolina State.
For South Carolina, it’s a much bleaker picture. The oddsmakers have installed the Gamecocks as an 11-point underdog at Georgia on Sept. 19, as an 11-point underdog at Missouri on Oct. 3, as an 8-point underdog at home against LSU on Oct. 10, and as a 10-point underdog at Texas A&M on Oct. 31.
The only game in which the sports book has the Gamecocks favored is a Nov. 14 home game against Florida, where the Gators are a 2.5-point underdog. USC games not included in the list are the Sept. 3 opener against North Carolina in Charlotte, home contests against Kentucky, UCF, Vanderbilt and The Citadel, and a road game at Tennessee.
In prominent games not involving Palmetto State teams, the Golden Nugget has set Alabama as a 10-point favorite over Wisconsin on Sept. 5, Ohio State as a 16-point favorite over Virginia Tech on Sept. 7, LSU as a 3-point favorite over Mississippi State on Sept. 12, Oklahoma as a 6.5-point favorite over Texas on Oct. 10, Georgia as a 12-point favorite over Florida on Oct. 31, Alabama as a 9-point favorite over LSU on Nov. 7, and Alabama as a 3.5-point favorite over Auburn on Nov. 28.
The early lines are far from infallible — ESPN wrote that the Golden Nugget installed TCU as a 10-point favorite for a game last year over SMU, which the Horned Frogs beat 56-0. The casino also had USC as a 9-point favorite over Texas A&M and an 11-point favorite over Missouri in 2014, and the Gamecocks dropped both those contests. But the lines proved somewhat accurate in presaging narrow Gamecocks victories last season over Georgia and Florida.
And the casino’s annual early point spreads offer the first real indication of how Las Vegas oddsmakers view the upcoming season. Toward that end, Clemson fans have to like what they see. And South Carolina faithful are surely hoping that the Golden Nugget is underestimating the Gamecocks as badly as the sports book did TCU one season ago.