No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Thursday August 30th, 2012. 7:00PM Eastern
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium Nashville, T.N.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC -7/Vandy +7
Over/Under Total: TBA
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For the 4th time in the last 5 years, Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina Gamecocks will kick off the college football season on Thursday night when they travel to Nashville to battle the Vanderbilt Commodores on August 30th. South Carolina will enter the season following an impressive 2011 campaign where the Gamecocks reached 11 wins for the first time in school history. This year the Gamecocks return a ton of talent and Spurrier thinks this team could be ready to make a run at the SEC Championship.
However, the Vanderbilt Commodores will attempt to spoil those hopes right out of the gates when they host the Gamecocks in the season opener. After two consecutive years with 2-10 records, new Coach James Franklin led the Commodores to a 6-7 record in 2011 and a Liberty Bowl appearance. Not only did Franklin bring Vanderbilt out of the SEC basement, but the Commodores also gained some respect by closely battling the likes of Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. If more improvements are made in 2012, the Commodores could take some opponents by surprise.
The biggest area where improvement is needed is on the offensive side of the football. The Commodores offense was atrocious in 2011 averaging just 339 yards per game. QB Jordan Rodgers struggled throughout the season by completing just 50% passing for 1,524 yards with 9 touchdowns and 10 picks. Hopefully Rodgers will be better in 2012 and provide some stability in the passing game. Still, senior running back Zac Stacy will likely be the focal point on offense. Stacy rushed for 1,193 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while averaging 6 yards per carry. Stacy will likely be the guy that carries the offense this season but they must get some help from Rodgers and the passing attack if things are going to improve.
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On the other side of the football, the Vanderbilt defense was very solid a year ago by holding opponents to just 322 yards per game. This year the defense returns 9 of 11 starters and Coach Franklin hopes they can be even better. The Commodores will have the hefty task of stopping a South Carolina team that can run the football really well. Contrary to popular belief, the Ole Ball Coach has not been able to throw the football around too often during his time in Columbia. Inconsistency at the quarterback position has been common for the Gamecocks over the past few years. Instead, South Carolina has been able to run the football and do it very well. In 2011 the Gamecocks averaged 192 yards per game on the ground and that was without star running back Marcus Lattimore for the 2nd half of the season.
The Gamecocks All-SEC running back led the nation in rushing at one point during the early part of 2011 before suffering a season ending ACL injury. Afterwards backup tailback Brandon Wilds and quarterback Connor Shaw carried the rushing attack. Shaw became a legitimate threat out of the backfield racking up over 300 yards and 5 touchdowns on the ground in just the last 4 games. Now Shaw will get to display his running talents again but this time it will be with a healthy Lattimore by his side.
Despite the Gamecocks strengths on the ground, Shaw can still throw the football relatively well. Shaw completed 65% passing with 14 touchdowns and 6 picks after taking over behind center last season. After several seasons with an inconsistent Stephen Garcia, Coach Spurrier has publicly stated he likes Connor Shaw’s work ethic and thinks the offense will be able to throw it around a bit more this year. However, the Gamecocks do have some question marks in the receiving game where they lost All American Alshon Jeffery. The South Carolina offense has some unproven talent at the receiver position and hope that someone can step up to be that go to man on the outside.
Overall this SEC battle will come down to the offense that is able to make plays. I mentioned previously that the Commodores had a very solid defensive group that should keep them in competition all season. However, I did not mention the even better defense from South Carolina. The Gamecocks sported the 3rd ranked defense last year holding opponents to a mere 267 yards per game. The Gamecocks defense of 2012 has the potential to be even better as they will return 9 of 11 starters anchored by one of the best defensive lines in college football. Therefore both defenses should keep this game relative low in terms of scoring.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: South Carolina has been a fast starting team under Spurrier before the grind of the SEC starts taking a toll. This Gamecocks defense has tremendous upside and I just do not see Vanderbilt putting up the points to contend. Take South Carolina -7
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