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Opponent Q&A: Vanderbilt

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Discussin’ the ‘Dores.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to this week’s edition of the Opponent Q&A, where we chatted with Thomas Stephenson of sister site Anchor of Gold to get some inside scoop on the Commodores ahead of the game tomorrow afternoon.

We’re halfway through new head coach Clark Lea’s first season with the Commodores, and y’all are having a tough go of it. It’s obviously too early to bring out the pitchforks or make too many declarative statements, but how are fans feeling about the new regime so far?

To put it kindly, fans are mixed on Clark Lea. Some (I’ll be the first to admit I’m in this camp) think that Derek Mason just didn’t leave behind very much in the way of SEC-level athletes and aren’t yet willing to hold the poor performance against him until he can get his own recruits in the program, while others have seen some deficiencies in the coaching that they don’t think he’ll make it.

What is the strength of this Vanderbilt team, or what do you think the ‘Dores can exploit best against USC?

The sad thing is, I’m not sure there’s anything that this Vanderbilt team does well. When he gets time to throw, Ken Seals is a pretty good passer and Vanderbilt does actually have some pretty good receivers, but “when he gets time to throw” is a hell of a qualifier.

Looking at the rest of the schedule, would you categorize this game as a must-win?

Must-win for what? Realistically, I don’t see any way Vanderbilt makes a bowl game this season — they’re 2-4 right now, and with Kentucky, Ole Miss, and Tennessee on the schedule in November, there doesn’t appear to be a realistic path to six wins — and as far as getting an SEC win this season, having watched both Missouri and South Carolina this season I would say that Missouri is a better opportunity to get a win.

The line was set at Vanderbilt +18.5 despite South Carolina’s many and well-documented offensive woes at this point. Do you feel like that’s off-base at all?

Yeah, I personally wouldn’t touch that line with a ten-foot pole, because while Vanderbilt’s defense is the same random big play generator that it’s been since Zach Cunningham left for the NFL after the 2016 season... well, I’m not sure that I trust South Carolina’s offense to score more than 18.5 points even if their defense were to shut out Vanderbilt.

Finally, related to the above — care to make a prediction?

South Carolina wins 21-7 and it will have fans questioning whether Derek Mason and Will Muschamp ever left.