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Previewing Vanderbilt at South Carolina: Q & A with the Vanderbilt Sports Line

I got together with the Vanderbilt Sports Line to do a Q & A to preview this week's game. Here's what they had to say. (My answers to their questions forthcoming here.)

1. From a USC's fan's perspective, Vanderbilt's two consecutive victories over South Carolina have certainly ratcheted up the intensity for this game. How do folks at Vanderbilt feel about this game? Where do you view South Carolina on your rivals ranking?

Vanderbilt fans have a special antipathy for South Carolina for one reason: Steve Spurrier. The Ol’ Ball Coach’s quip "there are no Vanderbilt’s in the NFL" has not been forgotten by the Commodore faithful. As far as rivalry, I’d put you guys behind UT, UK, and Ole Miss, but ahead of every other team in the SEC including Florida, Georgia, and the rest of the SEC West.  

2. In general, Vanderbilt doesn't appear to be as dangerous as it was last season. Would you agree that that's the case? Why or why not? 

Vanderbilt is no where near as dangerous this season as they were last. The defense is probably just as good, but have not forced as many turnovers. Worse, because of the new, inept no-huddle, hurry-up offense, the defense gets even less time to rest than before. Offensively, the team’s stats are actually comparable to where they were this time last season. The difference is red-zone scoring efficiency, which was very good last year (96% efficiency) compared to a less than stellar 68%, including just 10 TDs in 25 trips (and 17 scores overall). That’s not the only problem. QB Larry Smith has struggled, and the wide receiving corps. is pretty inept. The team has been decimated by injuries to boot.   

3. Although it has often been put in poor positions by a generally inept offense, Vanderbilt's defense has stood tall and managed to keep games close. How do Bobby Johnson and his staff manage to always field such good defenses despite playing with relatively limited resources? How do you think your defense will do Saturday? 

It’s truly amazing. I think it’s clear that Bobby Johnson and assistant head coach Bruce Fowler (formerly the defensive coordinator) are fantastic defensive coaches. Most importantly, they do a great job recruiting and find players that can fit with that they do. As for Saturday, Vanderbilt’s defense is only as good as their ability to stop the run, which wasn’t impressive against the Dawgs.

4. Both Alabama and Kentucky had some success against USC by putting the ball in the hands of their best playmaker in a wildcat formation and letting him make plays. Do you expect Vanderbilt to try to do the same? What other offensive wrinkles should we expect from the Commodores on Saturday? 

Perhaps. If there is a silver lining this season, it would have to be the freshmen running back duo of Zac Stacy and Warren Norman. Vanderbilt needs to get the ball in their hands, but given the ineptitude of the passing game (made even worse with the injury to TE Austin Monahan), it’s very easy to stack the box and stop the run. QB Larry Smith can break off some runs, but Vanderbilt periodically runs the option, so it’s doubtful the Commodores will throw anything at the Gamecocks they haven’t already seen on film.  

5. If you could have one of USC's players on your roster, who would you choose? Why? 

Alshon Jeffrey OR Torrie Gurley.  Either would be a huge help for the receiving corps that loves to drop passes. 

6. Prediction. Who will win this game and how will it go down? 

While Vanderbilt should never be a team to look past, they simply don’t have the horses on offense to turn this into a win.  Look for us to pick Garcia off a couple of times and generally frustrate the Gamecock faithful, but in the end picks are only as good as points on the board.  South Carolina wins this game 17-3.

Many thanks to VSL for agreeing to do this exchange.