Each Monday night during the football season, the blog will look ahead to South Carolina’s next opponent. This week, it’s Vanderbilt.
After taking a Georgia “tail kicking” in Athens, South Carolina gets to recover inside the friendly confines of its home stadium. On paper, it also gets an ideal opponent to help grow some confidence.
But is Vanderbilt still Vanderbilt? Do the Commodores still equal the SEC’s doormat? Recent history suggests something is different with the Nashville-based program, that the change Vandy coach James Franklin instilled with his team could be permanent. At least for as long as he’s around.
We’ll see Saturday night. Until then, read a little bit more about the Gamecocks’ upcoming opponent.
Who: Vanderbilt (1-1) at No. 13 South Carolina (1-1)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250) | Columbia, S.C.
Radio: Gamecocks Sports Network (WWIK-FM, 98.9 in Charleston) | Affiliates
Line: South Carolina -14
What to know about Vanderbilt: This isn’t the Vanderbilt you expect. Even if the Commodores enter Williams-Brice Stadium as two-touchdown underdogs, they are a program on the rise. In the past two seasons, coach James Franklin has taken Vanderbilt to never-before-seen heights. It started with a 6-6 regular season record and Liberty Bowl appearance against Cincinnati in 2011. It hit a new level when Vandy went 9-4 last season, including a 38-24 win against North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl. Despite a disappointing loss to Ole Miss in its 2013 opener, Vandy has high hopes this season. It’s not enough for the program to simply play teams like South Carolina tough. No, these Commodores want – and expect – to win these type of games. Just look at last season.
When last they met: South Carolina 17, Vanderbilt 13, on Aug. 30, 2012. Fans in Nashville – the small, but passionate group that actually cares about their in-city team – haven’t forgotten. Vandy led going into the fourth quarter. Marcus Lattimore’s 1-yard touchdown run with 11:25 left was the difference. Lattimore finished with 110 yards on 23 carries, and he had two touchdowns.
All-time series: South Carolina leads 18-4 and has won four straight. The Gamecocks did lose two straight in 2008 and 2007. They only scored six points in the 2007 loss.
Which Gamecock is crowing loudest: A South Carolina running back has reached 100 yards against Vanderbilt in three of the past four seasons. Mike Davis rushed for more than 100 yards in each of his games this fall. I’m bad at math, but that seems like a pretty good forecast for Davis against the Commodores.
Who’s keeping South Carolina coaches up at night: Jordan Matthews. Because he’s as scary as Freddy Krueger. Already this season, Matthews has 16 catches for 289 yards and two touchdowns. The senior receiver’s 10 catches, 178 yards and touchdown against now-No. 25 Ole Miss instantly validated his Preseason All-SEC First Team selection. USC’s secondary, which gave up four touchdowns and more than 300 yards to Georgia, won’t see a better receiver all season.
Quotable: Vanderbilt coach James Franklin on how to stop USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney: ”We’d like to add a tight end to that side to chip. You’d like to have a running back in position to help as well. You’d like to slide to him as much as possible, but they’re smart as well. They aren’t going to leave him in the same spot all the time. I think, more than anything, we just have to be aware of him. We do that every week, though. You try and take their strength away and eliminate them. The biggest thing is to be aware of him. He is going to have an impact in the game, but what you can’t afford him to do is have a huge impact on the game.”