There are a suprisingly large number of Vanderbilt blogs with regular postings. After persusing some of the better ones, here are a few things I found to give you an idea what they are thinking:The Sports VU
is the most optimistic of a decidedly optimistic bunch:
"The day has finally arrived. Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina on ESPN. I don't think I've ever been more excited for a football game. Maybe it's because Erin Andrews is here. Maybe it's because it's my final SEC home opener as an undergraduate. Or maybe it's because there's some part of me that just knows Vanderbilt is going to win."
He goes on: "South Carolina's defense is very good, even for SEC standards. They're quick to the ball, they hit hard and they play with an attitude. With that said, the Gamecock offense is mediocre at best. They're starting a different quarterback, Spurrier's already complaining about his offensive line and their running game is nothing special."
"Tonight's game is going to come down to special teams and field position. Seems obvious enough, but I think it's even more important than usual for Vanderbilt. If the Commodores can force a few USC turnovers (and capitalize on them) and then take care of the ball on offense, I truly do like their chances. Furthermore, they'll probably need a big play on special teams to put the offense in position to score."
His prediction: "Vanderbilt 24, South Carolina 20"
jake at Save the Shield
is a bit more guarded and noncommittal, but as he points out:
"Vanderbilt’s most recent win over a ranked team was, of course, at South Carolina last year, and South Carolina is also the most recent SEC team that Vanderbilt has defeated in consecutive years. On the other hand, the last time Vanderbilt was so looking forward to an early-season matchup against the Gamecocks was 2004, and of course we remember how that turned out.
It seems that Vanderbilt is more likely to win big games on the road when nobody expects it than to win big games at home when many people hope for it. Lets hope they can break the trend this week."
via Vanderbilt Sports Line
Stanimal gives three keys to the game for Vandy:
"1) Force some turnovers. The Gamecocks were turnover happy in the first half of last week’s game. They’ll be going in with a new QB, but last year’s game we forced turnovers off Smelley as well. If we can get some picks then we’ll be doing great.
2) Control field position. As long as we keep this game low scoring and maintain control of the game, we’ve got this one in the bag. Keep the ball as close to our side of the field as possible, run the ball well, control the clock. SC, despite being an improved defense, is still susceptible to QB runs and option play.
3) DON’T turn the ball over. On the flip side of us winning this game is us playing smart football. Spurrier is going to try and keep Nickson from using his feet as much as possible. Chris is going to be forced to throw more this game than before, and as long as he is smart with it, we can win this game."
Frankly, these three keys look good to me. If they do those things, it might be very difficult for us to escape with a win.
Finally Moral Victory
has this analysis:
"Spurrier doesn't lose early in the season unless he's playing LSU. His players are fresh and he hasn't started messing with his quarterbacks' minds yet. Heck, Mark Richt is scared to play South Carolina in September, and for good reason."
He continues: "I think this one is close. We believe we can beat Spurrier now, which is a start. But outside of Nickson, we can't run the ball consistently, and the Gamecock defense is awfully, awfully tough. Would I be surprised if we won? Well, yeah. Would I be surprised if we lost on a last-second field goal — say, 17-14? No. Would I be surprised if we lost 28-0? No.
So I'll average those two scores and say we lose 17-7."
For my part, I have am not sure what to expect. I remember the 2004 game Save the Shield refers to. While tailgating at the Parthenon, none of us knew what to expect and thought the game would be close. It turned out it wasn't and as I recall that was a game in which our atheletes shined and made a few big plays. I don't know if we can do that again tonight or not, but either way I don't the difference in our atheletes and Vanderbilt's is as great as it was 4 years ago.
I am not yet sold on the defense. I had as much fun as anyone last week watching them punish an outclassed NC State team, but I don't think anyone can say for sure how much of that performance was our defense and how much was NC State's general futility. I hope more of the former, but until proven otherwise NC State is a very bad team. Running quarterbacks scare me, but less so now with Ellis Johnson than with Tyrone Nix.
Offensively, I have always been a Smelley fan. His biggest problem has been his inability to throw the ball deep to the sidelines, an area Spurrier likes to attack. Hopefully the offseason weight program has fixed that. If he gets some time, and thats a big if, he could carve up the Vanderbilt defense, even with DJ Moore out there. If the passing game gets going, Mike Davis and the running game won't be far behind. (See 4th quarter last week))
As far as Vanderbilt's offense goes, their Chris Nickson is certainly capable of causing plenty of trouble for our defense. He is more dangerous moving than he is static, but he is a serviceable passer as well. The best way to disrupt a running quarterback is to get defenders in the backfield through penetration without having to rely on blitzes from the second level. If our defensive line can consistently get in the backfield against a realtively green Vandy offensive line, the defense's night will be made much easier.
Vanderbilt's defense, with the exception of DJ Moore, is more of an unknown quantity than our defense. Their outing against Miami OH was solid, but what did we really learn?Final Prediction: South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 13.