COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina football team returns home to Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday for a homecoming showdown with Vanderbilt.
The game will be televised on the SEC Network (4 p.m.). Here are the predictions from SEC Country contributors Mike Chapman and Hale McGranahan:
Mike: South Carolina 31, Vanderbilt 21
There are four reasons why I think South Carolina beats Vanderbilt.
- The Gamecocks are coming off a bye week during which they were able to get some rest and work on the offensive and defensive struggles that have hurt them in the first half of the season.
- It’s homecoming. The players should be playing with a little more energy, because no one wants to put a damper on that weekend. Just ask LSU.
- The Vanderbilt team is a shell of the team that started the season 3-0. The Commodores haven’t been able to recover from the Alabama beatdown at home.
- October will set up South Carolina for a winning a record. A win also keeps its SEC East hopes alive.
The Gamecocks will come out of the gate firing on all cylinders and put away the Commodores early. The bye-week progress will start with quarterback Jake Bentley, who said he went back to the basics to work on his footwork in the pocket. The key to any great athlete, much like a great house, is having a solid foundation, and that begins with your feet.
South Carolina fans should see a much-improved passer, which should help the Gamecocks offense convert early drives into touchdowns. The running game will be something to watch early, to see who is getting the carries and what the rotation looks like without Rico Dowdle. Three offensive linemen are back this week. They should provide solid protection for Bentley and a good push for whichever running back is toting the rock.
The defense will continue to improve, as it has all season. Perhaps, this week, the offense that was talked about during the summer finally shows up to play.
South Carolina wins to become bowl eligible in October. Columbia will be rocking on Saturday night, from Five Points to The Vista, as everybody cheers on Georgia Tech against Clemson.
Hale: South Carolina 34, Vanderbilt 10
It’s 2017 and if you’re not passing the ball, you’re boring.
Be boring, Kurt Roper. Just not too boring. I mean, mix it up. Get a lot of people involved doing a lot of different things. But run the ever-loving heck out of the ball against Vanderbilt.
Just do it, even if the homecoming crowd starts getting antsy and wants to see Jake Bentley throw the ball to Hayden Hurst.
For crying out loud, look at what happened in Derek Mason’s signature win over Kansas State. The Wildcats lost and still rushed for 201 yards and 5.74 per carry. That was good work by the Commodores, relative to what happened over the next couple of weeks:
- Alabama: 496 yards, 7.52 yards per carry, 6 touchdowns
- Florida: 218 yards, 4.27 yards per carry, 5 touchdowns
- Georgia: 423 yards, 7.83 yards per carry, 4 touchdowns
- Ole Miss: 252 yards, 6.15 yards per carry, 3 touchdowns
Yeah, Bama is big and bad and Georgia’s backs are awesome, but Ole freakin’ Miss even went 250-plus and scored 3 times on the ground.
Ty’Son Williams and A.J. Turner or A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams – let’s see them, early and often. Sprinkle in some jet sweeps: Turner, Hurst, Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith.
I want to see what a Shi Smith jet sweep looks like. I bet Vanderbilt doesn’t.
If Roper picks up where he left off against Tennessee, South Carolina rolls to bowl eligibility.