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2019 Opponent Preview: Vanderbilt

The Commodores look to build on a solid 2018, but will be missing some key pieces.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The home-away-home-away seesaw of 2019’s schedule continues, with the South Carolina Gamecocks returning to Williams-Brice after a trip to Tennessee to face another squad from the Volunteer State, this time the Vanderbilt Commodores. (And speaking of the Vols, Vandy currently owns a three-game winning streak over them, which I have to mention for just how incredible it is.) The Vandy game is probably one of my least favorite parts of any season — which is actually a credit to the ‘Dores, because they refuse to be the easy win on anyone’s schedule. I personally find that very annoying and unsporting.

Last meeting: The Gamecocks left Nashville with a 37-14 win, their 10th straight against the Commodores. In a departure from the usual tradition, this actually was a relatively breezy victory for South Carolina: The Gamecocks scored the first 10 points, then ripped off another 20 once Vanderbilt narrowed the deficit to 3. This game was played after Hurricane Florence wiped the Marshall contest off the books, and many fans worried about a “bye week” hangover — especially since Vanderbilt had hung tough against Notre Dame the week before. But the Gamecocks answered Vandy’s call for a “street fight,” and enjoyed their best rushing performance of the year with 273 yards on the ground.

Last season: In their fifth year under Derek Mason, the ‘Dores put together a solid season, finishing 6-7 (3-5 SEC) and earning a trip to the Texas Bowl, where they lost 45-38 to Baylor. As previously mentioned, Vandy notched a third straight win against Tennessee and also picked up conference wins against Arkansas and Ole Miss, as well as an impressive victory against Nevada. The ‘Dores have found a good match in Mason.

Player to watch: Ke’Shawn Vaughn could be the latest Vanderbilt skill player to give South Carolina fits. Although the Gamecocks held the running back to 30 yards last year, the former Illinois transfer tore it up the rest of 2018, rushing for 1,244 yards and 12 touchdowns while adding 170 yards and two scores through the air. With the departure of veteran quarterback Kyle Shurmur, Vandy will be leaning on Vaughn to keep the offense moving.

Prognosis: The Commodores could be headed for a disappointing step-back season, due not just to the loss of Shurmur but also five of their seven leading tacklers from last year’s defense. One thing’s for certain, though: I probably will not enjoy watching this game.