5. Offensive Ineptitude
South Carolina blanked NC State last week, but it sure wasn't pretty. I think that was the ugliest 34-0 game I have ever seen.
Tommy Beecher was awful before getting cold-cocked (no pun intended), throwing four interceptions and missing open receivers. Chris Smelley came into the game late and cleaned up the position somewhat, completing all five attempted passes, including two touchdowns.
South Carolina struggled most of the night to move the ball down the field against a less talented Wolfpack defense, and Vandy's defense is a lot better and faster than NC State's. I think SC will struggle moving the ball in the first half regardless of who the QB is.
4. Chris Nickson
Chris Nickson's passing stats from the Miami of Ohio opener won't dazzle anyone—nine for 16 with a touchdown—but he made no mistakes with the football and was able to march his team down the field consistently to put points on the board.
Oh yeah, and Nickson had 166 yards rushing on 20 carries and two touchdowns. That's pretty remarkable, even if it is against a middle of the road MAC opponent.
SC's defense looked tough against NC State, but I don't think they will be able to keep Nickson in the pocket all night. He'll make plays on the outside, just like last week.
3. D.J. Moore
This kid can just flat-out play. He will be playing on Sundays next year—and those occasional Thursdays, and Saturdays...you get my point. Moore will lock down on McKinley and other SC receivers all night, cutting down Smelley's options and forcing short throws and throws into coverage.
He is also a gamebreaker on special teams, and I wouldn't be surprised if he broke one tonight. He just missed scoring on a punt return last week.
2. Vandy beat them last year
Let's not forget, Vandy went into Williams-Brice last year and physically dominated a similar SC team. This time Steve Spurrier and the boys come to Nashville, and I don't see it any differently than last year. I think too many people sleep on the 'Dores, and SC will see firsthand again why they shouldn't.
1. USC plays Georgia next week
All the SEC heard all offseason long was how good Georgia was going to be. SC will be the first SEC team to get their shot, and after last year's upset in Athens, you've got to believe they are already licking their chops in Columbia for the matchup.
Tonight's game would be very easy for the Gamecocks to look past and dismiss as a win and start thinking about them Dawgs.
I don't think Spurrier has a disciplined enough team to keep that from happening, and I therefore think this is the number one reason why Vandy will escape with a win tonight—lack of focus. I just think SC will be looking ahead to Georgia and not worrying about Vandy.
So there you go. I didn't even throw in the fact that it is a Thursday night ESPN primetime game. Vandy rarely gets the privilege of appearing on ESPN in prime time, let alone at home. The atmosphere should be electric (by Vanderbilt standards anyways).
Vandy wins tonight. Close. 24-21. You heard it here first.