South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores Complete Game Preview
South Carolina plays host to Vanderbilt well aware that a loss would all but crush the Gamecocks' SEC East title hopes. The Commodores gave the Gamecocks all they could handle last year before South Carolina rallied for a 17-13 victory.
South Carolina enters the game following a 27-10 victory over North Carolina and last week's 41-30 loss at Georgia.
The Commodores opened the season with a 39-35 loss to Ole Miss, then beat non-conference foe Austin Peay last week 38-3.
Who: Vanderbilt (1-1, 0-1 SEC) at South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC)
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
Series history: South Carolina leads 18-4
Keys to Victory for South Carolina
Georgia ran and passed at will against the Gamecocks in the Bulldogs' 41-30 victory last week.
South Carolina's defense needs to play better against the Commodores, a team that has wracked up 73 points in its first two games.
The Commodores' strength is their passing game. Quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels has completed 60 percent of his passes for 528 yards and three touchdowns, but they also can run the football and the play-calling has been balanced.
The Gamecocks are coming off two solid efforts offensively and will need another on Saturday if their defense falters again.
Keys to Victory for Vanderbilt
The Commodores were a good road team last year, winning four consecutive conference games away from home.
They'll need some of that mojo to carry over to this season, along with a strong defensive effort.
Vanderbilt will have its hands full against a South Carolina offense that is proving to be very balanced.
Offensively, the Commodores need to get some semblance of a running game going. They're unlikely to beat the Gamecocks relying solely on the passing game.
Players to Watch for South Carolina
South Carolina tailback Mike Davis has been an absolute beast, rushing for 264 yards and two touchdowns in two games.
He's averaging 9.4 yards per carry.
Quarterback Connor Shaw has proven to be a solid dual-threat quarterback, completing 60 percent of his passes for 377 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He also has rushed for 118 yards.
Nick Jones has emerged as the Gamecocks' top receiver with 10 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite a slow start, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney remains a force to be reckoned with up front.
Players to Watch for Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt's offense revolves around quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, who has passed for 528 yards and three touchdowns.
Jordan Matthews is the the Commodores' top receiver with 18 catches for 294 yards and two touchdowns.
Vandy has gone with a running-back-by-committee approach thus far, with Jerron Seymour, Brian Kimbrow and Wesley Tate splitting most of the carries.
Defensively, look out for senior cornerback Andre Hal. He is tied for the team lead in tackles with 11 and has broken up three passes.
What They're Saying
At South Carolina, coach Steve Spurrier knows that Vanderbilt is getting better and better and that the Commodores are anxious to take the next step and beat one or more of the top three teams in the SEC East.
"They think this is the year they're going to beat some of the top teams in the East," Spurrier said Tuesday to myself and others at his weekly press conference. "Hopefully, it's not this week, but they're a good team. We have to play well. Obviously, we have to play better than we did last time out to have a chance against Vandy. Hopefully, we will."
Speaking at his Monday press conference, available on the Vanderbilt athletic department official site, Vanderbilt coach James Franklin spoke of his admiration for Spurrier.
"The first thing is Coach Spurrier," Franklin said. "If you really study Coach Spurrier and his track record, it's really unbelievable, not only what he was able to do at Duke, not only what he was able to do at Florida and not only what he is doing at South Carolina. One of the things that is most impressive about Coach Spurrier is how he has evolved over time. You think about the offense he had at Florida and now what he's doing at South Carolina, it's so much different. He's still finding ways to be successful in the most competitive football conference."
South Carolina will need to get over its Georgia hangover if the Gamecocks don't want the Bulldogs to beat them twice.
The assumption is they will be ready to play.
Although Vanderbilt is not the pushover it has been in years past, it doesn't have the athletic talent of the Gamecocks and will be hard-pressed to pull the upset in front of what should be a hostile South Carolina crowd.
Prediction: South Carolina 37, Vanderbilt 17.