This is the last post in my series on Vanderbilt. Here are my three keys to the game and my final prediction.
Three Keys to the Game
With Akeem Auguste out injured, Carolina will turn to Legree and Christian at Auguste's corner spot. The coaches have stated that Legree will start but that Christian will get significant playing time. Carolina looks to field an otherwise strong defense this year, but this corner spot does constitute one potential weakness. Neither Legree or Christian are proven. I would look for Vandy to target this side of the field early and often to see if it can get a big play or two. It would mean a lot, both for this game and the season as a whole, to see one or both of these two guys step up and play a really good game tonight.
2. Opening-Game Jitters
Although I love the excitement associated with playing a good team the first week, I also hate not getting a tune-up game. The first game is oftentimes a mistake-filled mess that doesn't really give you a great idea of what you really have. That's fine if you're playing Louisiana-Lafayette. It's not fine if you're playing a Vandy team that's chomping at the bit for a big upset. The Gamecocks likely aren't going to be at the same well-oiled level as they'll be later in the season, but they need to avoid the kinds of mistakes that are often part and parcel with an opening game.
1. Carolina Can't "Play Down"
Vandy should have a better team this year than in the past, but at the same time, the 'Dores still aren't on our level. South Carolina is more talented than Vandy at virtually every position on the field. Simply put, if Carolina plays to the best of its ability tonight, it wins. If it plays down, though, it can and probably will lose. Vandy is jacked up for this game and will probably play as well as it's able at this point in the season. They'll play well enough to be a sluggish Carolina team. We can't be that team.
In my Q&A with Anchor of Gold, I predicted a close game. I've decided to revise that prediction. Carolina is the better team here, and unless we fall apart, we win this game relatively easily. This Carolina team is not only talented but enjoys good leadership, and that has me thinking that we we'll be ready. It's also good to know that we won't be overlooking Vandy for a week-two matchup against UGA. Carolina should be completely focused on this game. I'm expecting a statement win, somewhere along the lines of 38-21.