Last year, South Carolina dominated both lines of scrimmage against Vanderbilt. The Commodores only gained 77 yards for the game.
This year, it won't get any better for Vandy.
It will likely be much worse. Vanderbilt lost its star in the defensive backfield from 2011 in second-team All-American cornerback Casey Hayward.
Hayward was drafted in the second round by the Green Bay Packers. He had two of the four interceptions thrown by Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia in the 2011 game.
Also not returning for Vanderbilt is strong safety Sean Richardson, a 13-game starter in 2011. Another big piece of the defense not returning is linebacker Chris Marve. He was a second-team All-SEC player and the No. 1 tackler on the Commodore defense last season.
Vandy is also replacing defensive end Tim Fugger, who was drafted by Indianapolis. It is likely to miss his 13 starts, 33 tackles and especially, eight sacks.
The Commodores are returning four players with 35 starts between them, so the defensive line is in better shape than the defensive backfield.
South Carolina rolls into Nashville with what could be its best defense ever. Overall, it is touted to be at least as strong—and possibly better—than the unit that shut Vanderbilt down last season.
Lorenzo Ward, who coached defensive backs under Ellis Johnson, is the new defensive coordinator at South Carolina. His philosophy is suggested to be even more aggressive and he has players to make it work.
Vanderbilt was able to do something in the 2011 game that most teams had a difficult time doing. It held Marcus Lattimore to only 77 total yards rushing—he did get another 73 yards in receiving—something almost unheard of when he was healthy.
That is why the thinking is Lattimore may see a lot of carries in Nashville on Thursday night. The South Carolina offensive line may think it owes Vanderbilt a better rushing effort this year.
If so, don't doubt that Marcus Lattimore will do his part.