Three Keys to Victory
3. Run the Ball
Vanderbilt has a rushing defense that's every bit as bad as Kentucky's. Marcus Lattimore or no Marcus Lattimore, that means we should be able to run the ball effectively. Kenny Miles broke 100+ against Vandy last year, but unfortunately the coaches generally chose, to poor effect, to stop running the ball as soon as we got into Vandy's territory, which ended up equaling a game where we somehow managed to tally over 400 total yards and only 14 points. Coaches, let's not get too cute here. Let's let Garcia loose at opportune moments and, other than that, punish Vanderbilt's defense with Miles (and Lattimore, if he plays). And if that doesn't work, let's put Stephon Gilmore or Connor Shaw in and let them run the WildCock. The one thing I don't want to see us doing here is start bombing to Alshon every other play. Bombs to Alshon are great when the rest of the offense is clicking. Otherwise, they're predictable and easily defended. We need to regain the balance that we've had in most of our better performances this season.
2. Pressure the QB
Vanderbilt is banged up and playing some serious youngsters on the offensive line, including a true freshman at center, which is probably the last place you want to play a true freshman other than QB. Larry Smith can make plays with his feet, but he's also easily rattled when he's being pressured often, and that's happened almost every game that Vandy has played against quality competition. For all the weeping and gnashing of teeth regarding our pass coverage, our defensive line and linebackers have played fairly well and are beginning to get more of a push off the line. If we can stop the run and our DBs can at least play well enough to keep Vandy from getting much out of their quick-release screens, we can force Smith to drop back, and we should be able to have some success knocking him around if that's the case.
1. Put the Last One Behind Us
I usually like to avoid this kind of psycho-babble when talking football, but you'd be hard-pressed to convince me after last game that this team isn't a bit of a headcase, especially on the road. How else do you explain the striking highs and lows we seem to experience? Coaches and players, put it behind you. You're better than Vandy. Play a full game on the road, and this should be a comfortable win.
What This Game Means
The pundits are all talking about how this game is for the East lead, but I think we all know that's because Vandy has only played three SEC games and only one against the East. Vandy isn't going to win the East, even in a down year for the Division. However, there's definitely a lot riding on this one for Carolina, even if we're favored by 10+. We both need to win and prove that we can play to the best of our ability on the road. I think this game is as much a question of building confidence as anything else. This team needs a boost heading into November, the kind of boost that you get from embarrassing another team in its own house.
After a week of reflection, I've decided that it's going to make more than one bad half against Kentucky to convince me that what we saw for the first few weeks was a mirage and that this team isn't different. I look for the defense to have a field day, Miles to rush for 100+ and a couple of TDs, and the Gamecocks to win 31-6.