Friday, October 23, 2009

Gamecocks vs Vanderbilt Football Preview

The 23rd-ranked Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2 SEC) host the struggling Commodores (2-5, 0-4) on Saturday at 7 p.m. (ESPNU). Oddsmakers have installed USC as roughly a 12-point favorite, although that has meant little the past two seasons, when the Gamecocks also were favored to win. This game is very important to the gamecocks in 2009 (as it was in year’s past) due to the fact that the gamecocks desire to avoid another late season collapse and finish strong.

The Commodores are coming off a loss to Georgia for their fourth straight SEC loss of the season. Vanderbilt remains winless in the conference and is looking at USC to help correct their woes. Vandy’s wins have come against Western Carolina and Rice, and they have a non-conference loss at Army to go with a 0-4 start in the league. They’ve scored 29 points in four SEC games….ouch. This is a game that Carolina can not, repeat, can not overlook.

Carolina comes into this match up still hurting from the shock last year that Vanderbilt gave South Carolina in a 24-17 Comm-y win in Nashville for their second consecutive win over the Gamecocks. Plus they played a good game vs Bama last week so it is important their heads be in this game.

South Carolina leads the overall series 14-4 but Vandy has won the last two; in most SEC games lately past records don’t matter and this game is no different, it is up to which team wants it more.

Spurrier has said this Commodores team isn’t all that different than this year’s Gamecocks: Got a strong defense and a struggling offense.

Vandy Offense v Carolina Defense --- Vanderbilt is last in scoring offense (17.6 points a game) and second to last in total offense (330.1 yards a game) in SEC play. The Commodores are among the worst teams nationally in pass offense (150.6 yards a game) to boot. The Commodores have actually run the ball well, as they have gained 179.6 ypg at a clip of 4.3 ypc with 10 touchdowns. The passing game has been a different story; Vanderbilt has the nation's 112th-ranked passing offense. QB Larry Smith has completed only 45.8 percent of his passes for 967 yards with some INTs to go with a handful of TDs. Tailback Warren Norman leads the ground attack with 450 yards and three touchdowns, and there are several other backs that have made positive contributions in the running game. This means that one of the keys to the game for a Carolina win is the ability for USC to slow/stop the running game of Vandy. Force the Vandy QB to beat them. If he does throw it will be to his main guys - John Cole 19 rec for 200 yds; Udom Umoh 15 rec for 190 yds, 1 TD; Brandon Barden 14 rec for 160 yds, 1 TD. The strength of the Vandy team is the offensive line -the line is anchored by a huge right guard, Eric Hensley (6-6 / 322). Good news Carolina on that….Vanderbilt is dealing with injuries on the line this week. Thomas Welch (6-7 / 310), a senior tackle, is reported as questionable with a sprained ankle. If Welch cannot play, the Commodores will play Ryan Seymore (6-5 / 294), a redshirt freshman. The starting tight end, Austin Monahan (6-7 / 255), has been lost for the season.

South Carolina is fourth in total defense (291.1) and third in pass defense (142.6). This unit will need to step up on Saturday and be ready. The gamecocks front line will again be tested but they have seen the best and are ready. The fact that South Carolina is only allowing 18.6 ppg speaks to the strength of the defense. With 15 sacks and 14 takeaways, the Gamecocks have made a fair number of big plays. Norwood is the program's all- time sacks leader, and he has six to his credit this year. The big man is tied for the team lead with 44 tackles and has blocked a pair of kicks, proving to be one of the nation's truly elite defenders. Again Ellis Johnson’s boys will have to be ready and the main thing is STOP THE RUN!

USC Offense v Vandy Defense --- USC is 10th in scoring offense (24.3) and eighth in total offense (357.1). USC will try to bring a balanced attack to this game with a mix of running and passing. Garcia has completed 57.6 percent of his passes for 1,482 yards and nine touchdowns with only four interceptions. The quarterback has a sore knee, but he is expected to be on the field this weekend. Moe Brown is out but look for Alshon and Barnes to pick up slack. I foresee a renewed focus on running the ball from the Carolina side with their 3 backs – Giles, Miles and Maddox. Like most Carolina games this year, offense success depends on whether Carolina can not harm its own chances. No dumb penalties or turnovers is a recipe for success.

Vandy's defense has been its strength. Despite their 2-5 record, the Commodores are third nationally in pass defense (133.6 yards) and 24th in total defense (304.1 yards). While the Vanderbilt offense has struggled, the team's defense has played quite well, limiting opponents to 18.3 ppg and 304.1 total ypg. The Commodores have been particularly tough against the pass, holding opponents to 9.5 yards per completion with six touchdowns against nine interceptions. Vanderbilt’s hanging on in the secondary, even though cornerback and South Carolina native D.J. Moore left early for the NFL and All-SEC candidate Ryan Hamilton is out for the season with an injury. Chris Marve leads Vandy with 65 total tackles, and Myron Lewis has three interceptions. Fifth-year senior defensive end Broderick Stewart and senior outside linebacker Patrick Benoist have given the Gamecocks fits the past couple of years. Only 33 percent of third down conversion attempts have been successful against the 'Dores.

Boils down to the Gamecocks ability to control the trenches and the possibility of playing a complete game, something they have not done all year. Spurrier will need the offense to come out hungry and ready to knock people off the ball to have success running the ball but Vandy will be trying to do the same. The Carolina defense will have to rise to the occasion again and slow the running attack of Vandy. USC qb Garcia will have to have success connecting downfield and not put the Gamecocks in trouble. Seems on paper that this game is going to be a cake walk for Carolina but Vandy always plays tough and this could prove to be just that type of game. I feel Carolina will come out strong and ready to get some revenge but it will be not so pretty in the making of a victory, no more "Vandy WTFs." Look for Carolina to again make the right halftime adjustments and get that sixth win. I could see a score ending up to be 24-10 in favor of Carolina.


Snead said...

From The State: The Gamecocks are 13-0 against Vandy when scoring at least 20 points, and 1-3 otherwise.

'nuff said. Let's get some fire in this offense.

Adam said...