We take an early look as SEC rivals, the South
Carolina Gamecocks and the Vanderbilt Commodores, square off in their regular season opener on August 30th
at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee.
South Carolina Gamecocks (11-2 last
The number 2
ranked passing defense last season may have lost Stephen Gilmore and Melvin
Ingram to the NFL, but many overlook the fact that their defensive coordinator
Ellis Johnson flew the coop to Southern Mississippi. Johnson was the architect of a tremendous
defense, but the Gamecocks will have to be just as tough this season if they
want to match their school record for wins in a season from last year.
exodus of defensive talent, South Carolina still boasts a tremendous tandem
in JaDeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor as bookends on the defensive front. Steve Spurrier's crew allowed only 18.4
points per game in the high flying SEC which ranked them 11th in the
Offensively, the team was dealt a blow when Alshon Jeffrey decided to step up to the next
level and got picked in the 2nd round by the Chicago Bears. Jeffrey was South Carolina's Mr. Everything. Now, Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders will be looked upon to pick up the slack
and fill the enormous void left by Jeffrey. Another receiver making noise early is incoming freshman Shaq
Roland. Connor Shaw will get the nod at
quarterback, and he hopes his offensive line will be much more protective of him
when he drops back to pass as he was sacked 23 times in eight starts.
But the big
key for Spurrier's smash mouth offense will be the return of uber-talented
running back Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore
was sidelined last season with a knee injury, but was replaced quite skillfully
by Brandon Wilds. This would be a
tremendous one-two punch for the Gamecocks with Lattimore getting the starting
role but Wilds would keep the train chugging when Lattimore needs a breather.
Vanderbilt Commodores (6-7 last
Rodgers energized the Commodores after replacing Larry Smith as the starting QB
in the second half of the season. He
will be the man coming into camp but
Mountain West Freshman of the Year Austyn Carta-Samuels of Wyoming is a
transfer who will make the job competitive.
Vandy's offensive line gelled nicely in the 2nd half of the
season while receivers Chris Boyd and Jordan Matthews proved to be a big,
albeit unexpected, part of the offense. When you factor in Zac Stace, who exploded on to the SEC scene last
season with a whopping 5.9 yards per carry on a total of almost 1200 yards,
this team could surprise many.
lost a good chunk of their quality starters and this will be an area of concern
for the Commodores. They were ranked 29th
in the country in points allowed with 21.6 but it would be surprising, no make
that shocking, if they were to perform at that level this season.
It should be
noted that 4 of Vandy's 6 regular season losses last season came by six points
or less, and they bowed by a touchdown to the Bearcats in the Liberty
Bowl. In the fourth week of the
season, they got handled on the road by South Carolina 21-3 as 15 point
Though the venue will be friendlier for the
Commodores this season when they take on the Gamecocks the outcome will be the
same. South Carolina is just too talented
and should exploit a Vandy defense that figures to be diminished this season by
some big time losses. We will go with the road chalk and back the
South Carolina Gamecocks -9 ½.
The Pick: Gamecocks -9.5