Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina Week 4: 5 Things to Watch as SEC Teams Collide
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This coming Saturday two undefeated SEC teams are set to collide and the winner will be sitting at the top of its division and no, it's not Alabama and Arkansas. The Vanderbilt Commodores sitting at a surprising 3-0 and coming off a 30-7 drubbing of Ole Miss take its act on the road for the first time in the James Franklin era to head to Williams-Brice stadium to battle the No. 12 3-0 South Carolina Gamecocks. Here are five things to keep an eye on this weekend.
Marcus Lattimore vs. Vandy Defense
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This is easily the biggest story line of the game. Marcus Lattimore has been unstoppable so far this season.
He basically single-handedly beat Navy last week by rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns on 37 carries. He was also the best part of the Carolina offense against Georgia. Last week, Vandy held Ole' Miss to just 2.7 yards a carry for a total of 85 yards on 32 carries.
If the Vandy defense can stand tall and slow down Lattimore and force Stephen Garcia to beat them, then they have a good chance to spring the upset.
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Vandy does not have an explosive offense, so it will have to be efficient and avoid mistakes to keep up with South Carolina.
Unfortunately, Vandy quarterback Larry Smith has never been great at avoiding turnovers. The former Prattville Lion has never excelled during his five years at Vanderbilt like he did in high school, but he is in a position to show he has grown as a player in a hostile environment Saturday.
If Smith can avoid drive-crushing sacks and interceptions—he has already been sacked nine times this year-—Vandy will be able to stick with its successful running game.
The Vanderbilt running back is arguably the most talented player on the Vandy roster.
However, he hasn't been seen in a game since breaking his hand against Arkansas last season. Coach James Franklin says they have been saving Norman for the SEC schedule, giving him more time to recover.
But, last week against Ole' Miss, he was still no where to be found.
If the speedy Norman can give Vandy a spark and return to the line up as both a kick returner and running back, he would give the Commodores a much-needed SEC caliber weapon to attack the Gamecocks with.
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Coach Steve Spurrier's tendency for rotating quarterbacks has been well-documented.
Connor Shaw was given the starting job to start the season, but after struggling against East Carolina, he was pulled in favor of senior Stephen Garcia.
Garcia has all the talent to be successful, but his off-field issues have often been a distraction. If Garcia struggles to get the offense rolling against Vandy, it will be interesting to watch if Spurrier will once again have the quick hook and go back to Shaw.
Then again, if Vandy cant slow down Lattimore, it wont really matter who is taking the snaps for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina Defense
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The South Carolina defense is loaded with play-makers, including freshmen phenom Jadaveon Clowney. Defensive end Melvin Ingram also scored the game-winning touchdown against Georgia.
However, as a unit, they have been disappointing—giving up nearly 80 points in its first two games and then struggling with Navy's triple option last week to the tune of 274 yards rushing.
If Vandy's disciplined offense can capitalize on the chances it gets, it could find itself putting up some major points on the board.