When South Carolina arrives in Nashville for a Week 4 showdown with Vanderbilt, it will be looking to extend its win streak against the Commodores to double digits. The Gamecocks have won the last nine in a row in this series, with the ‘Dores last victory coming in 2008 in Nashville.
Vanderbilt has won only four times in 27 tries against South Carolina, with this most recent stretch actually a bit of an anomaly given the previous pattern. The Gamecocks won the first seven games (1961, then annually from 1992-97) before the Commodores won in 1998 and '99. South Carolina took the next seven from 2000-06, with Vanderbilt snatching the 2007 and '08 meetings. Unfortunately for the fans in Nashville, however, their team hasn’t been able to replicate any of the wins since that last win in 2008.
South Carolina was granted a pseudo-bye week in Week 3 as its game against Marshall was canceled due to inclement weather. It certainly needed time to recover from its previous week’s showing against No. 2 Georgia, who easily handled the Gamecocks 41-17. Georgia clung to a 10-point lead at halftime, but the third quarter was the difference as the Bulldogs rattled off 21 straight points in the period to end any hopes of an upset in Columbia.
Vanderbilt came closer to starting 2018 at 3-0 than many anticipated. Sure, its first two contests against Middle Tennessee and Nevada weren’t supposed to be too difficult, but the Commodores just refused to go away last Saturday against No. 8 Notre Dame. Though the Commodores ultimately fell 22–17, Kyle Shurmur led the offense on what could have been a game-winning drive were it not for a failed fourth-down conversion inside Irish territory. Shurmur passed for 326 yards, a touchdown and an interception, while leading rusher Ke’Shawn Vaughn chipped in 54 yards and a score in the losing effort.
South Carolina at Vanderbilt
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: South Carolina -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Kalija Lipscomb vs. South Carolina secondary
Though South Carolina fell by 24 to Georgia two weeks ago, the Bulldogs ground game — 51 carries for 275 yards — was the component that really wore the Gamecocks defense down. Their pass defense hasn’t been tested much in two games, so Kalija Lipscomb — whose 25 receptions leads Vanderbilt — will look to wear down South Carolina’s secondary after going for 89 yards on 11 receptions against Notre Dame.
2. Can Vanderbilt's defense generate pressure?
The Commodores have shown an ability to get into the backfield with relative ease, tallying three sacks and seven tackles for a loss per game to rank in the top third of the FBS in both of those categories. The Gamecocks, however, have allowed only seven TFLs total through two games, with their 3.5 TFL allowed/game good for No. 2 in the SEC and No. 7 nationally. The battle in the trenches between the Commodores’ front seven and the Gamecocks’ protection will be an intriguing one to watch.
3. South Carolina ball protection
South Carolina is one of only 16 teams in the FBS that have yet to fumble the ball this year. Vanderbilt has recovered three fumbles thus far in 2018, which has certainly aided its two wins and its close loss to the Irish. In close games, the turnover battle tends to be a deciding factor, and Saturday’s clash projects to be a close game where a key turnover could be a decisive factor.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason surely won’t want to accept any moral victories, but his team certainly took one after the close loss in South Bend. A 2-1 Commodores team playing significantly better football than they did to close last season should give the Gamecocks a lot of trouble, especially with this game being in Nashville. Look for Vanderbilt’s SEC East opener (South Carolina’s second SEC East game) to be a fight to the finish.
Prediction: South Carolina 29, Vanderbilt 20
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and works for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.