Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s SEC East matchup featuring South Carolina and Vanderbilt from Nashville.

When: Today
Where: Nashville, Tennessee
Game Time: 7:30 PM ET
TV: SEC Network
Current Line: South Carolina (-21.5)

Game Buzz: The Gamecocks jumped back into the thick of the Eastern Division race last week with a dramatic win over sixth-ranked Georgia, South Carolina’s fourth win in five years over the Bulldogs. Vanderbilt won its first game of the season against UMass, overcoming an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win late on a go-ahead touchdown drive directed by quarterback Patton Robinette.

Saturday Down South previews

SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS

Players to watch:

  • QB Dylan Thompson
  • RB Brandon Wilds
  • RB Mike Davis
  • WR Nick Jones
  • WR Shaq Roland
  • LB Skai Moore
  • DL Darius English
  • DB Brison Williams
  • DB T.J. Gurley

Keys for South Carolina:

  • Wrap-up on defense and force Vanderbilt into passing situations. It may sound strange considering the Gamecocks’ are last int he SEC against the pass, but Vanderbilt’s best shot at at upset is getting running back Ralph Webb started on the ground and South Carolina can’t afford to get into a clock-eating battle with the Commodores. Forcing Vanderbilt into passing situations works to the defense’s advantage considering the quarterback position been a question in the early going in Nashville.
  • Establish an early rhythm for QB Dylan Thompson. Vanderbilt’s secondary is the youngest in the SEC, a unit forced to replace all four starters from last season’s squad. Thompson’s averaging 300 yards passing per game and is on pace to become South Carolina’s new single-season record holder for yards in the season. The Gamecocks hold a clear edge at the skill positions and exploiting those mismatches on the outside with wideouts Shaq Roland and Pharoh Cooper would be beneficial.
  • Force mistakes. Historically during Steve Spurrier’s tenure, the Gamecocks have won nearly 80 percent of their games when coming out on the plus side in turnover-differential. Last week’s win over Georgia was an anomaly based on the fact South Carolina gave it away twice and didn’t force a single takeaway.

Gamecocks’ glaring weakness to watch: It’s no secret South Carolina’s last line of defense has struggled this season. But can Robinette beat the Gamecocks with his arm? He’s going to have an opportunity since Lorenzo Ward’s unit will likely have seven players in the box to contain the Commodores’ running game.

Most interesting part of the game: South Carolina’s failed to cover 6 of the last 8 meetings against Vanderbilt and road games in Nashville have always been a challenge.

VANDERBILT COMMODORES

Players to watch:

  • QB Patton Robinette
  • RB Ralph Webb
  • RB Jerron Seymor
  • WR C.J. Duncan
  • DL Adam Butler
  • DL Caleb Azubike

Keys for Vanderbilt:

  • Sustain drives. Three-and-outs against a three-touchdown favorite will prove fatal for a squad struggling to string together first downs on offense. With a deliberate focus on the run and the ability to manufacture reasonable third downs situations, the Commodores could stay in the game by playing keep away and limiting South Carolina’s total possessions.
  • Special teams success. Vanderbilt’s already scored three non-offensive touchdowns this season, a combination of sub-par opponents and good positioning on special teams. An early momentum-changer in the return game would certainly energize a sleepy crowd in Nashville that is starved for an exciting play this season.

Commodores’ glaring weakness to watch: Offense. The numbers are bad, comparable to South Carolina’s statistics on the other side of the football. Something has to give in this matchup. Focusing on Webb gives Vanderbilt a chance if its offensive line can play well in the trenches.

Most interesting part of the game: Vanderbilt has nothing to lose as a heavy underdog. The Commodores are supposed to get waxed by the preseason division favorite. The ‘why not us’ mentality comes into play here, but can Mason’s bunch play four quarters of solid football needed to post the upset? That remains to be seen.