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Wisdom from the Other Side: vs. Vanderbilt

Philip from Save the Shield contacted Garnet and Black Attack's crack agents and said he would be willing to give us top secret information on the Vanderbilt football program.

Getting GBA information on this weekend's opponent.

Here's what our agents got out of him:

I'm sure you won't take it the wrong way when I point out that Vanderbilt hasn't had ... um ... a track record of great success in recent college football history. Are you one of those that believes this is inevitable, or can Vanderbilt be a good program? What should be the expectation for Commodore fans each season?

Well, I certainly don't think we're going to be a program that wins ten games every couple of years. I tend to think that's as much because of the ethical state of the SEC as the difficulty of finding players who are willing to do the work in the clasroom -- not that there may not be some successful ethical coaches in the SEC, but they have to have every other edge in their favor, and we clearly don't. But Northwestern, Stanford, and Wake Forest have won conference championships in the past decade, so surely we should be able to field a team that wins six games at least once every quarter-century!

When you sit through enough endings like last week's, to the point where you actually expect your team to blow a ten-point halftime lead against a mediocre opponent ... well, it's hard not to start feeling that something's cursed.

You get to pick: Chris Nickson or Mackenzi Adams? Why? By the way, is this a full-blown QB controversy?

I can pretty much recite the arguments for either on the message boards, so I'd say it's a full blown controversy. At this point using Adams is the lesser of two bad options. Nickson has more upside, and has led us to some big wins in the past, but he's really not been throwing well since Week 2 vs. Alabama. At first it was injuries, and now it may be totally psychological, but in either case he's just not playing well.

I do favor bringing in Nickson for red zone situations where his running ability is at a premium.

Most South Carolina fans who pay attention to the SEC probably know the quarterbacks and Earl Bennett. Tell us one player from Vanderbilt whose name we don't know that will have a significant impact, for better or worse, on Saturday's game.

Left tackle #74 Chris Williams, and by extension the whole offensive line. OL was supposed to be a huge strong point for us this year with five senior starters; Williams was the best of the lot, with first-round draft potential. Instead our QBs spent the Georgia game running for their lives, and in general the OL has been a huge disappointment. For the team to turn things around they'll need to play better, and that starts with Williams.

Our QBs sometimes have to run for their lives, but they prefer dancing.

Our run defense is not a pretty thing to watch. Does Vanderbilt have the personnel to take advantage of that?

I'm inclined to say not really, but then I think of how good Cassen Jackson-Garrison looked against Ole Miss. Is Carolina's run defense Ole Miss-bad or just sorta generic SEC mediocre? Looking at the stats I see y'all are 10th in the conference and Ole Miss 11th, so maybe we have some chances. At least the coaching staff certainly seems to like to run it up the gut. :)

There's a bit of a controversy at RB too, with some people pleading for more carries for Jared Hawkins. Incidentally, for the most part our fans have been pretty reserved in not attacking Jackson-Garrison for his fumble vs. Georgia. Most of us save that anger for the coaching staff for playing too conservatively in the second half!

Vanderbilt is 3-3 right now, with both Miami (OH) and Wake Forest looking like winnable games. Am I right about those two games, and is there an upset lurking on the schedule that you think Vanderbilt can pull off for bowl eligibility?

The two OOC games certainly look like our most winnable ones, though Miami's possibly the best team in the MAC and Wake made Florida State look silly again. At the beginning of the season most would have reckoned Kentucky as our 6th. Obviously the 'Cats are playing really well right now, although I wasn't really a believer until the LSU win. Still, we haven't really seen how they play as the hunted, so that game might have some upset potential.

Florida appears to me to only play their best against opponents they respect. Two years ago we lost in double OT in Gainesville after an outrageous celebration penalty against Earl Bennett. I wouldn't predict a VU win but Florida seems to be a team that's vulnerable at
times. Tennessee of course started off bad against Top 10 opponents, but they seem to have found their stride. We've had road upsets over traditional SEC East powers the past two years, so I won't put anything past this program. But it's hard not to feel that, if we do pull something off, we'll compensate by losing one of the OOC games. I wrote some tongue-in-cheek predictions along those lines -- but the Georgia one was pretty accurate!

What are the three things Vanderbilt must do to win Saturday?

  • Open up the offense and not be so predictable. We did this in the first half vs. UGa and looked great.
  • Intercept Smelley at least once or twice. Our pass D has played really well at times and just missed a couple of picks vs. Georgia.
  • Oh ... um ... Get over the psychological impact of how we lost to Georgia. I engage in a lot of dark humor as a coping mechanism, but when you fumble at the opponent's nine in a potential go-ahead drive with 3:17 left, it's hard not to be overcome with self-doubt.

What's your prediction?

South Carolina 28, Vanderbilt 10.

I just really don't feel good about this game at all.  Hope I'm wrong.