The South Carolina Gamecocks hit the road to Nashville tonight in search of a bounce-back win after a disappointing and deflating loss to Missouri last week. USC has had its way with Vanderbilt over the last decade-plus, but as any seasoned Gamecock fan knows, this is a football program that has a knack for keeping things a little too interesting. Here’s how the GABA gang sees it going down.
Kody: While we can all agree the Missouri loss was miserable in just about every aspect, I think the Gamecocks will find some success again and reach bowl eligibility this week in Nashville. The Commodores have had a rough row to hoe over the past month (dealing with Georgia, Alabama, and Ole Miss) and will also be coming off a bye, but they just don’t have enough firepower to overwhelm the Gamecocks offensively, nor a good enough defense to make life too difficult for Spencer Rattler and company. I do, however, think this will be a classic throwback to the types of Vanderbilt games we’ve all loved and hated over the years – something like a 17-14 slobberknocker that’s ugly and uncomfortably close, but still a result that goes in the win column. I’d love to see this team blow the doors off the ‘Dores, but it doesn’t feel likely, and I’ll accept simply getting back on the right track.
Brent: The vibes around the South Carolina football program are not good this week following the 23-10 loss to Missouri. Now they have to venture out on the road to face Vanderbilt on Saturday night. There are now questions surrounding Marshawn Lloyd’s availability. Carolina has got to win this football game on Saturday, there is no other way around it. If they want to go to a bowl game this is their best chance to get there, but a loss to Vanderbilt would set all of the good will built over the last 23 months on fire. Shane Beamer’s team simply cannot afford a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday for so many reasons. South Carolina is way more talented than this Vanderbilt team on both sides of the football. But Vanderbilt won’t be scared of South Carolina one bit. They had South Carolina dead to rights in Columbia last year before Zeb Noland pulled victory from the jaws of defeat in the final seconds. I don’t know how and I don’t really care, but Jaheim Bell has to be more involved in the offensive game plan on Saturday. So does “Juice” Wells for that matter. Carolina cannot afford to fall behind again on Saturday night like they did to Missouri. The offense just isn’t built to play from behind. Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield has been the center of much scrutiny this season and if the Gamecock offense does not perform well on Saturday night, that noise is only going to be louder. I am predicting this game is going to be very ugly and very stressful for Carolina fans, but I also am predicting that the Gamecocks leave Nashville with a 23-20 victory. We could all use a 37-10 win, though.
Matt: As sad as it sounds, this is a “must win” game. If South Carolina drops this one, its chances of going bowling drop substantially. On paper, this should be a blowout. USC is the much better team with the superior offense, defense, coaching staff and anything else you can think of. What is the one thing Vanderbilt has? They are playing with house money AND they are coming off a bye. The Gamecocks have topped the Commodores each of the last 13 years, and you don’t think they want an ounce of revenge? Something also very depressing is the fact that this is probably like the Super Bowl to Vanderbilt, knowing they likely can’t compete with a Kentucky, Florida or Tennessee in its final three contests. Every second of these two weeks has been dedicated to cracking the Gamecock code, and I believe Vanderbilt will not disappoint. Listen, I’m not insane. I just think the Cocks will win the game in Gamecock fashion with the fans having to sweat it out a little bit. The Commodore run defense is terrible, so I expect Marshawn Lloyd (if he plays) to have a field day. I also anticipate Vanderbilt matching every blow with a score of its own leading to the game being decided in the final seconds. Give me South Carolina winning a close one by the score of 20-17 thanks to a late Mitch Jeter field goal.
Katie: I’m both predicting and demanding a win this week after seeing last week’s clunker in person (the first time I’ve been in attendance for a loss since 2009 BUT IT’S FINE). The Gamecocks need a bounce back game in a bad way, so on paper it’s fortunate that Vanderbilt is next on the schedule. Like the guys mentioned, though, games against the Commodores tend to be annoying. It would be fun and good for us if South Carolina could come out strong and put this one away early, but based on [gestures at this season so far], I’ll take a win however they can get one.