South Carolina Football: Marcus Lattimore Key to Putting Vanderbilt Away Early

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 30, 2012

South Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore
South Carolina RB Marcus LattimoreStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

South Carolina is walking into a hornet's nest on Thursday night.

No, the Gamecocks aren't walking into Bryant-Denny Staduim, Death Valley, Jordan-Hare Stadium or The Swamp. 

Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.


That's right, Vanderbilt.

In my 32 years here, I can remember only one other really big game at Vanderbilt—its 2008 matchup with Auburn when ESPN's College GameDay was held there.

People may talk about the small stadium (40,550), the lack of a sellout as of two days prior to kickoff and the fact that South Carolina is used to big(ger) game atmospheres. That's all true, but it's missing the point.

This game could be played in a television studio with no live audience at all, and it would still have that "Game of the Century" feel for Vanderbilt. Head coach James Franklin has instilled a ton of momentum in the program coming off of last season's bowl appearance and success on the recruiting trail.

Because of that, it's absolutely imperative that the Gamecocks get off to a good start, and running back Marcus Lattimore is the key to doing that.

That seems obvious since, you know, he's a Heisman Trophy contender and all. However, it's also a lot of pressure on the junior who's coming off of a torn ACL suffered last October.

Vanderbilt came close to closing out second half comebacks vs. Georgia and at Florida a year ago, and another year of conditioning coupled with senior leadership from quarterback Jordan Rodgers, running back Zac Stacy and defensive tackle Rob Lohr.

If you're South Carolina, you can't let the Commodores hang around. Give the keys of the bus to Lattimore and let him drive it to victory in the same fashion he did in his first SEC game two years ago, when he ran over and around Georgia.

South Carolina is fully capable of blowing Vanderbilt out, but if they don't jump on the 'Dores early, it could wreck South Carolina's entire season.