We’re less than one week out from football, and it’s time to start looking ahead to all week-one games.
The Matchup: South Carolina at Vanderbilt
When: Thursday, August 30th
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Game Time: 7:00 PM ET
What you need to know about South Carolina: The Gamecocks return from a program record in 2011 with 11 wins. And prolific RB Marcus Lattimore returns from last year’s ACL injury to exert his will, and he boasts over 2,000 rushing yards in his short career.
SC was fifth in scoring offense in the SEC at 30.1 points per game, while only giving up 18.4 points per game.
South Carolina returns several offensive starters, including the nucleus of QB Connor Shaw, Lattimore and WR Ace Sanders. Shaw looks to mature in his second year in Steve Spurrier’s offense and first year as the definite starter.
USC boasts one of the best defenses in the SEC, with top end duo Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor causing opponents fits in the backfield. However, an injury to returning senior corner Akeem Auguste will have some scratching their heads now with only one returning starter in the secondary.
What you need to know about Vanderbilt: This isn’t your daddy’s Vanderbilt, but they also are still a few years away, if ever, from competing for an SEC Championship. James Franklin has brought a different attitude to Nashville, and recruits, teammates and the university are buying into it. And why not, as Franklin accomplished many firsts in his rookie year.
Vandy does have a good nucleus of players returning, spearheaded by RB Zac Stacy (1,193 and 14 TDs), QB Jordan Rodgers and WRs Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, who combined caught 72 passes for 1,251 yards and 13 TDs. Defensively, Vanderbilt returns leading sacker Rob Lohr (6.5 sacks) but lose talented defensive backs in Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson. Both were crucial to the team’s success last year with combined eight interceptions.
What you need to watch: There are a few things you need to look for in this football game. It’s the first SEC game of the year, and I’m looking at Carolina specifically to see if they can start out strong and get Connor Shaw some momentum in the passing game. We know they can run the ball, but they will only be able to win the SEC with a more balanced offense.
Secondly, Vanderbilt has created some momentum heading into this year. James Franklin has a ton of pub right now and people are taking note of this program, even top recruits. Vandy’s stadium will be full to see if there’s any foundation to the hype. If the Commodores can find a way to win this – and it’s certainly not out of the question – they could make some serious noise in the open East race. We’ll find out if this is the same ole Vandy or not.
Lastly, I want to see senior Zac Stacy for the Commodores. This guy is the leading returning rusher from a year ago in the SEC, and Carolina is a top 10 defense, at least for now.
I’m not quite ready to put the Gamecocks on upset alert because they simply have more athletes who can make more plays, but it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility. The Gamecocks lose this one, and it could create quite a negative snowball effect.