So in this research I’ve been doing for the Vanderbilt game I found a factoid that is equal parts fascinating and terrifying.
Outside of one game in 1961, South Carolina and Vanderbilt have played every season since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. In those 26 contests I noticed one fairly obvious trend:
- 1961; 1992-97: SC wins seven in a row — average winning margin of +20.3
- 1998-99 : Vanderbilt wins two in a row — average losing margin of -2.0
- 2000-06: SC wins seven in a row — average winning margin of +15.8
- 2007-08 : Vanderbilt wins two in a row — average losing margin of -9.0
- 2009-16: SC wins eight in a row — average winning margin of +9.5
As you can see from the bulleted points, South Carolina looks due for their inexplicable Vandy loss that apparently comes in pairs. From the scoring margins it looks like Vanderbilt has become more and more competitive over the years. That’s probably a direct result of a recent string of good coaching hires Vanderbilt’s made (Bobby Johnson, Jams Franklin, Derek Mason) than anything else.
Irregardless, the pattern makes you feel like a dumb loss is on the horizon. It just wouldn’t be a good ole’ fashion South Carolina football season without more than one soul crushing defeat at the hands of an inferior opponent.
Coming off a bye week following a big win at Tennessee seems like the perfect trap spot for South Carolina, especially when you consider how the season has gone for Vandy in 2017.
Things started great in Derek Mason’s fourth season. Vanderbilt stormed out to a 3-0 start that was punctuated by a 14-7 win over Kansas State in Nashville. The response from the Commodore faithful and the media was enthusiastic to say the least:
Now, Vanderbilt wants BAMA. https://t.co/woZBGfH3PT— Touchdown Alabama (@TDAlabamaMag) September 17, 2017
LSU shouldn't be ranked but I would put Cal, Vanderbilt, or Memphis is at #25 before West Virginia. They haven't lost and have P5 wins— Ute Pilot (@ute_pilot) September 17, 2017
CFB Top 30: Week 4 30-21— Matt Hetzler (@TheHetz) September 17, 2017
That’s right. A month ago we were all talking about a top-25 Vanderbilt team thumping their chest at Alabama. There certainly was reason for optimism considering how well Vandy had played on defense, but I don’t recall anyone legitimately thinking Alabama was going to lose in Nashville.
Not only did Alabama not lose to Vanderbilt, they broke the ‘Dores over their knee and left them for dead in the middle of a dimly-lit street.
Vanderbilt averaged a mere 1.3 yards per play, totaled three first downs and gave up 7.5 yards a carry on 66 carries to nine different Alabama ball carriers in a 59-0 mollywhopping. Vanderbilt hasn’t been the same team since, giving up an average of 46.7 points in three losses to Georgia, Florida and Ole Miss.
The team has morphed into a bizzaro version of what we’ve come to know from Mason’s Vandebilt teams. Instead of a stingy defense coupled with a strong running game, the Commodores are a horrific defense being held together with a great passing attack. Alabama basically punched Vanderbilt so hard in the face they turned into Texas Tech.
Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmer has been a bright spot in their spiraling season. His 14 touchdowns and two interceptions are only second to Danny Etling and Jalen Hurts in terms of TD-INT ratio, though his 54.9 percent completion rate ranks second worst in the conference behind Kellen Mond.
That’s not to say South Carolina doesn’t have their flaws. The run game has been non-existent for the most part outside of some splash plays by Ty’son Williams and AJ Turner, while the defense still can’t stop any short passes underneath zone coverage.
The good news is the Gamecocks are coming off their best defensive performance of the year and the unit seems to be gelling together at a crucial point of the season. DJ Wonnum, Taylor Stallworth, Dante Sawyer and Kier Thomas have come together to make a formidable front four and could be key to South Carolina finishing the season strong.
They’ve been good enough carry along an offense that’s looked anemic since the loss of Deebo Samuel almost two months ago. South Carolina has topped 20 points once since Samuel was hurt and it’s becoming clear Jake Bentley hasn’t made any significant improvements after a much lauded freshman season.
Perhaps Vandy’s trash heap of a defense is just what South Carolina needs to cure their offensive ails. However, no matter how well South Carolina is playing or how bad Vanderbilt is — don’t ever take this game for granted. Don’t believe me? Ask the 2007 Gamecock team how that went.
How to watch South Carolina vs. Tennessee today
Time: 4:00 p.m. ET
Place: Williams Brice Stadium, Columbia, SC
TV: SEC Network
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour, Andre Ware
Anchor of Gold (SBN Vanderbilt Blog)