CCU, Clemson, USC seeking key conference road wins

Coastal Carolina football coach Davis Bennett hates stats … unless they are stacked against him.

Suddenly, the guy who leaves the math to the so-called “experts” turns into stat geek, using the numbers as fuel for his team’s fire.

“You like stats. You want some stats, stat man? Here you go,” Bennett joked to one reporter at Wednesday’s press conference for today’s game against Liberty. “They haven’t lost at home in more than five years, so there’s your stat.”

Hard to argue with that factoid, especially since the Flames are the frontrunners to win the Big South Conference. But the Chanticleers have shown this season they like a good challenge, and they’llbe in for one today in Lynchburg, Va.

Liberty quarterback Mike Brown ranks at the top of the league in virtually every offensive statistical category and he will put the Chants’ defense to the test.

Coastal has found its own run/pass duel-threat QB in Aramis Hillary, who will have to match Brown step for step and throw for throw for the Chants to win this one in a tough road environment.

Maybe I’ve been drinking the Teal Kool-Aid, but I believe Coastal is slightly better than people think and the Flames are due to have their home winning streak snuffed out. … Coastal 27, Liberty 24.

* South Carolina at Mississippi State: The Gamecocks can breath easy now that the Stephen Garcia is finally over. Connor Shaw only has to worry about Steve Spurrier staring over his shoulder.

But Shaw is a better quarterback than people think; he just really hasn’t had the chance to show what he can do until last week’s four-TD performance against Kentucky.

His spot start in the season opener was a ploy to light a fire under Garcia and everyone knew it. Now Shaw knows he is “the man” and his confidence will continue to grow.

Granted, the Mississippi State defense is much beter than Kentucky’s, but the Gamecocks will rely heavily on the legs of Marcus Lattimore and their stingy defense to take the pressure off Shaw. … South Carolina (-2.5) 31, Mississippi State 20.

* Clemson at Maryland: The Tigers get a huge break when quarterback Tajh Boy’s hip injury turned out to be little more than a strain.

Boyd will be in the starting lineup and ready to light up the Terrapins’ defense. Maryland ket it close last week against Georgia Tech, but the Jackets can’t throw the ball the way the Tigers can.

Still, look for the Terps to keep it close against a Clemson squad that has won most of its big games at home, Virginia Tech excluded. … Clemson (-7.5) 24, Maryland 17.

Last week: 3-0 straight up, 2-0 against the spread. Overall: 14-3 straight up; 8-4-1 against the spread.

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