No. 9 South Carolina may have won the season opener against Vanderbilt last week, but that doesn't mean there isn't some concern circulating around Columbia right now.
After all, the Gamecocks only beat Vanderbilt 17-13, and quarterback Connor Shaw is nursing a shoulder injury he sustained in the game.
East Carolina hopes to make life difficult for Steve Spurrier's squad on Saturday, coming off a 35-13 victory over Appalachian State. The last time the Pirates faced the Gamecocks, it was a blowout.
Here's a look at the matchup between East Carolina and South Carolina on Saturday.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
When: Saturday, Sept. 8 at 12:21 p.m. ET
Watch: SEC Network/ESPN3
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Line: South Carolina -21.5, via ScoresAndOdds.com
What's At Stake?
After going 11-2 (6-2 SEC East) and capturing the Capital One Bowl over Nebraska last season, South Carolina is looking for its first division title since 2010.
Star running back Marcus Lattimore, minus an early fumble, looked great last week in South Carolina's 17-13 narrow victory over a determined Vanderbilt squad. His performance will be key for the Gamecocks moving forward, especially since quarterback Connor Shaw struggled against the Commodores and suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder.
East Carolina is coming off a disappointing 5-7 campaign (4-4 Conference USA) in which it lost the season opener to South Carolina last season, 56-37. The Pirates won the C-USA title in 2009 under former coach Skip Holtz.
A 35-13 victory over Appalachian State to start the season was a complete effort on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Rio Johnson and sophomore linebacker Jeremy Grove starred.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
NT Michael Brooks - Concussion - Questionable
DB Kristopher Sykes - Hip - Questionable
DB Leonard Paulk - Knee - Questionable
LB Montese Overton - Concussion - Doubtful
QB Connor Shaw - Shoulder - Probable
FB Jacob Baker - Knee - Questionable
TE Drew Owens - Knee - Questionable
DB Marcquis Roberts - Knee - Questionable
CB Akeem Auguste - Groin - OUT indefinitely
RB Shon Carson - Wrist - OUT indefinitely
RB Brandon Wilds - Ankle - OUT until at least mid-September
What They're Saying
While East Carolina ultimately was dominated by South Carolina last season, it must be said that the Pirates led 17-0 before several turnovers derailed them.
Sophomore linebacker Jeremy Grove, who was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week after recoding nine tackles and two forced fumbles against Appalachian State, said, via Bonesville.net, “We know we were right in the game last year against South Carolina.”
Appalachian State was just 4-of-15 on third downs against the Pirates last week.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said on Sunday that quarterback Connor Shaw had trouble even lifting his arm after the game against Vanderbilt, per ESPN.
On the other hand, Shaw's father told Josh Kendall of The State the young quarterback is "doing fine" and "will play" against East Carolina.
East Carolina Player to Watch: Jeremy Grove, LB
Quarterback Rio Johnson, who enters the second start of his college career, will certainly be important for the Pirates, but it won't matter how he does if Jeremy Grove and the rest of the East Carolina defense can't stop Marcus Lattimore and Co.
Grove racked up 122 tackles in C-USA last season (fourth in the conference) and is off to a splendid start. His ability to help limit Lattimore could make life tougher on Shaw.
South Carolina Player to Watch: Marcus Lattimore, RB
Marcus Lattimore isn't being called a Heisman contender for nothing.
The junior rushed for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games last year before a season-ending knee injury against Mississippi State. In 2010-2011, he rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns while adding 412 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
Last week against Vanderbilt, Lattimore lost a fumble on his first touch of the game, but rebounded by rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Key Matchup: East Carolina Run Defense vs. South Carolina Running Game
Last season, the Pirates allowed 4.5 yards per carry and 24 rushing touchdowns. That included Lattimore posting 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns against them in the season opener.
If the Pirates have any chance against the Gamecocks, they have to limit Lattimore and hope the inexperienced secondary is able to limit Shaw.
Prediction: South Carolina 30, East Carolina 13
Even if East Carolina limits Lattimore, he should still find ways to score, as he always does. The Pirates may not give up 56 points to the Gamecocks this time around, but it should still be a rough day for a defense that doesn't compare to Vanderbilt overall. East Carolina allowed 32.3 points per game last season and the inexperience of quarterback Rio Johnson should make it difficult for the Pirates to score against South Carolina.
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