“It’s still Vanderbilt.”

“The Gamecocks should roll.”

“Who does South Carolina play after the Commodores?”

Same story, different year from those of us on the outside looking in.

And coach Steve Spurrier is quick to remind everyone that Vanderbilt always plays South Carolina close regardless of the opening line or talent discrepancy on both sides of the football.

He expects nothing different Saturday night in Nashville.

“I expect a down to the wire, knock down drag out game just like we had here last year,” Spurrier said this week. “They were driving when Jimmy Legree picked it off and jumped out to the 1-yard line. They will play us tough. At times we look like we know what we’re doing and at times we look pretty average. I’m hoping we can put together our best game of the year against Vanderbilt.”

The Gamecocks have won 18 of 22 meetings since joining the SEC in 1992, but two of those four losses have come during Spurrier’s tenure.

You get a sense listening to the Head Ball Coach during ‘Vanderbilt Week’ every year that he hasn’t yet forgotten the painful memory of 2007 and 2008 when the Gamecocks — as heavy favorites — lost to Commodore teams that won five and seven games those seasons.

Likely the most pathetic home performance of the Spurrier era was that 2007 tilt when the sixth-ranked Gamecocks managed just 282 total yards in a turnover-filled 17-6 defeat. Thanks to sub-par performances from quarterbacks Chris Smelley and Blake Mitchell, South Carolina crumbled under the pressure of its highest ranking in years after falling behind by 17 points in the first quarter and Spurrier’s 14-0 career record against the Commodores was no more.

Since that demoralizing two-year stretch, South Carolina’s won all five matchups in the East series, but none have been easy with the average margin of victory at 10 points per contest.

During the last trip to Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks needed a pass breakup from safety D.J. Swearinger on fourth down inside of two minutes to escape with a four-point win.

South Carolina’s a 21.5-point favorite in this one and the overwhelming majority has placed bets on the Gamecocks to cover.

Based on recent history, that’s not the smartest plan.

  • 2013: South Carolina favored by 13.5, fails to cover at 35-25.
  • 2012: South Carolina favored by 7, fails to cover at 17-13.
  • 2011: South Carolina favored by 15.5, covers at 21-3.
  • 2010: South Carolina favored by 12.5, covers at 21-7.
  • 2009: South Carolina favored by 14, fails to cover at 14-10.

The Gamecocks covered as a 15.5-point favorite at home in 2011 when a stingy defense limited Vanderbilt to five total first downs and a lone first-quarter field goal despite four interceptions from Stephen Garcia.

The previous season, South Carolina managed a late cover in a game that wasn’t decided until Alshon Jeffery’s 72-yard touchdown reception put the Gamecocks ahead by two possessions with seven minutes remaining.

Vanderbilt’s limping in at 1-2 with questions at several position, but the Gamecocks are coming off an emotional high after last weekend’s win over Georgia and can’t afford to sleepwalk through a must-win game in the Music City.

“We see ourselves as underdogs, but that’s just part of college football,” Vanderbilt first-year coach Derek Mason said. “We’re playing a well-coaching football team under a coach who has over 200 wins. What we have to do is be about our game plan, make sure that we do our due diligence on offense, defense and special teams and worry about us.”