College football is back! Boy, does that feel good to write.
One of the more interesting matchups in the season is a Thursday-night tilt between No. 9 South Carolina and a Vanderbilt team that has more talent than people realize. With a home game in Nashville, Vandy should actually give the Gamecocks some problems.
Plus, the game will mark the return of Marcus Lattimore, one of the top running backs in the country. And if nothing else, don't you want to see Steve Spurrier's blood pressure rise on the sideline?
Let's preview this early SEC clash between a team with major aspirations this season and a program quietly on the rise.
When: Thursday, August 30 at 7:00 p.m. ET
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
Listen: SiriusXM 91, NewsRadio 1510 WLAC (Nashville),
Live Streaming: WatchESPN
Betting Line: South Carolina (-7), according to Bovada
South Carolina Injuries (via USA Today)
QB Connor Shaw, Back, Probable
RB Marcus Lattimore, Knee, Probable
Vanderbilt Injuries (via USA Today)
What's at Stake
But Vanderbilt isn't going to simply play the role of pushover. After a Liberty Bowl appearance a season ago, Commodores fans are excited about this Vandy side. They would like nothing more than to play early-season spoilers and knock off the Gamecocks.
South Carolina Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore
So how will he look on Thursday night?
Expect Lattimore to see plenty of touches and remain the focal point of South Carolina's offense. The Vandy defense will have their hands full with the talented runner.
Vanderbilt Player to Watch: Zac Stacy
If Vandy can run the ball in this one, look out. They have a better offense than most people think, led by Stacy, who quietly rushed for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Don't be surprised if Stacy and the Commodores give the South Carolina defense all it can handle.
What They're Saying
From Teresa Walker of the Associated Press (via ESPN):
"Every team each year sort of sets their goals and we've set our goals, very similar to last year," Spurrier said. "We're going to see if we can achieve our goals and hopefully do a little better than last year."
And that means starting quickly against the Commodores, who have lost their past three to South Carolina but are treating this one as more than a simple starting point.
"This is the only thing that exists," Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. "This is our Super Bowl. No other game exists."
Key Matchup: Vanderbilt's Offensive Line vs. South Carolina's Defensive Line
If Vanderbilt is going to win this contest, it will be because the talented skill-position players of the Commodores can make the game a shootout. But if they can't run the ball or keep the quarterback protected, that will be a moot point.
If Vanderbilt's offensive line doesn't show up, Vandy won't show up on the scoreboard either.
Vandy is more talented than people think. But South Carolina is stacked. This one will be a fun watch, but ultimately the Gamecocks will prevail, 28-17.
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