This week's old-school logo.
Well, here we are. We've come a long way since playing Vanderbilt last year, and most of the trip has been pretty sad. However, it's a new year and hope springs eternal. I think we should and will win this game, but it won't be a cake walk, so we need a good performance. Here are my three keys to victory against the Commodores.
Get better QB and o-line play and limit turnovers
As anyone who watched the NC State game knows, these are our main needs right now. Last week, we only scored 13 points before Smelley came in, and 10 of those were a direct result of State turnovers inside their own 30. That won't cut it against Vandy. Smelley is starting this week, but how will he perform under pressure? And will he get the protection he needs? If Chris and the line play well, I think that we can score 30+ against Vandy, and that should be more than enough to win. But those are big ifs.
Stop Chris Nickson and company
Our defense looked good last week, but they did it against a team with a porous offensive line and a terrible QB (at least Daniel Evans was terrible after Russell Wilson left the game). Vanderbilt has a young line, but they have a good, if inconsistent, QB in Chris Nickson. Like I've said all week, Vanderbilt will test our linebacker speed by trying to get Nickson into space, so expect Ellis Johnson to (1) try to blitz Nickson and take him down before he gets into space and (2) have our secondary ready to close in on him if he does. I think we can do these things, but I don't think we'll get another shutout here.
Keep the ball away from DJ Moore
DJ Moore talked trash about our wideouts after the Commodores beat us last year, and Kenny McKinley probably wants revenge. While I have no doubt that Kenny can take DJ, I think a better idea would be for us to keep the ball as far from Moore as possible. Moore is by far Vanderbilt's best defensive player, so my thinking is that we should attack their weaknesses: throw the ball to Dion LeCorn, Moe Brown, or Jason Barnes on the other side of the field, pitch it to our TEs or Mike Davis over the middle, etc. No sense in letting DJ break off big plays like he did last year.
Well, that's a wrap on this preview. My final score prediction? 33-17, Gamecocks. I think we'll play better offensively and while I don't think we'll be able to shut down Vandy like we did NC State last week, I think we'll keep them from breaking 20. I hope I'm right.
Fun fact for this week: A win here will bring us to .500 all-time, an exciting but sad fact.
Folks, feel free to hold forth in the comments.