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GAME WEEK 4: Talking Vanderbilt Comandos (Discussion Thread)

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Since Hurricane Florence has bullied the South Carolina football team out of its Week 3 game against Marshall, we might as well take an early at who’s up next on the schedule.

South Carolina returns to SEC play next weekend with a 4 p.m. showdown at Vanderbilt. The Commodores, however, will have their hands full this weekend as they travel to South Bend to take on No. 8-ranked Notre Dame. Kickoff between Vanderbilt and Notre Dame is set for 2:30 p.m. on NBC, so South Carolina fans who still have power this Saturday can tune in for a sneak peek.

Let’s look at a few things to know about the Commodores, as they enter their fifth season under head coach Derek Mason. They are off to a good start.

Vanderbilt opened the seasons with easy home wins over Middle Tennessee State (35-7) and Nevada (41-10). Notre Dame, however, presents a completely different type of challenge for Vanderbilt.

Mike Tirico, Notre Dame’s TV play-by-play man, feels Vanderbilt has a chance, because of the new defensive coordinator.  Jason Tarver has come in from the NFL and they're running similar stuff, but it's a new message from a new messenger,” Tirico said, “So the energy and the passion and the ball-hawking on defense is there. Can they get the Notre Dame to turn it over and get a few short fields? That's how you get the upset in motion on Saturday."

ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has the Irish on upset alert.

"I think they better be careful with Vandy," Herbstreit said. "I know it sounds crazy to say that sentence, but Vandy has a veteran team. Vandy is going to be a team that, no matter what Brian Kelly says to his team, they're probably going to have a hard time getting sky-high emotionally for. Vandy is not going to be intimidated by playing in South Bend, they play in the SEC and they play in big stadiums all the time.

"I'm not saying 'Hey, look out, Vandy is going to bet Notre Dame flat out.' I'm just saying the Vandy defense alone will be very, competitive against Brandon Wimbush and Notre Dame. They've got NFL players on that defense, especially in the secondary. That's a game that Notre Dame has to be careful with and not look by and look to some of the bigger names on their schedule. We'll see the mental toughness and the maturity of Notre Dame this week."

Notre Dame opened as a 15.5-point favorite, but the line has dropped to 13.5.

Vanderbilt senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur is 0-2 against South Carolina. In the 2016 opener, Shurmur completed 8-of-22 passes for 73 yards. A year later, in Columbia, his numbers were considerably better.

Shurmur connected on 27-of-49 passes for 333 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. Like the year before (three points), the Gamecocks won the 2017 matchup by just one score (seven points).

So far this season, Shurmur has completed 33-of-49 passes for 428 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His 167.66 rating is tied for 28th-best in the country.

Shurmur is second in school history with 44 career touchdown passes. Jay Cutler owns the record (59).

Through the first two games, Vanderbilt’s defense has forced six turnovers – three interceptions and three fumbles. Last season, it took the Commodores nine games last season to collect six turnovers.

Vanderbilt’s tied for eighth in the country in turnover margin (+4). 

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Vanderbilt a team that just might win more the lose this year. If not for a fumble at the ND 1, a dropped TD they would be up so far in the game. Their QB is accurate and OL is blocking well against ND front. We better bring our A game next week. Going to be a tuff one on the road. This will be a very very tough game this weekend for the Gamecocks.

Next weekend Gamecocks travel to Lexington, Kentucky. To meet a Kentucky team that at this point is the number 2 team in the SEC East ahead of the Gamecocks at this point. Question is will most Gamecocks fans be happy with a split the next two weeks? Very well could happen, folks.

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South Carolina is the favorite in its first road game of the 2018 campaign. The Gamecocks opened as a three-point favorite to beat the Commodores according to VegasInsider.com

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QUESTION: Does it feel like the air has been let out of our balloon, football wise, for this season? I mean, we started out with a nice win over an over-matched opponent, and then, like clockwork, with the eyes of the football world upon us, and the opportunity to show that we are a team to be reckoned with, we come out and look like feces against Georgia. Anyone else tired of being embarrassed with everyone watching? Then, our bounce-back game gets canceled and it just seems like all the excitement and buzz about the new season has disappeared. There's no juice surrounding the program right now and you can feel that lack of excitement. Am I the only one who senses that?

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I am a little nervous about this game vs Vandy. How about you folks? I was thinking the Gamecocks would find out what level in the SEC based on that UGA game. Gamecocks are not near that level yet. But they weren’t last year either and won 9 games. You can still have a solid season and not be one of the top programs in America.

But I do think tomorrow will define the type of season Gamecocks are going to have. Show up, play well, and win and they HAVE A CHANCE to have a good season. But lose, I can’t see this season going all that well.

I believe the Gamecocks are still a decent team and that’s why I do believe they can win the game tomorrow, beat Kentucky next week, and win 8 games or so this season.

But I do get nervous about what happens if they don’t. Realistically it’s only one game. The Gamecocks will find out if they are mediocre or not. And this isn’t intended as a slight at Vandy. They are solid and will be tough to beat, no doubt. But really the Gamecocks have to win this game to go on to a big year.

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Will Gamecocks be rusty? And other storylines for a matchup with Vanderbilt

South Carolina plays Vanderbilt at 4 p.m. Saturday in Nashville, Tenn. Here are the top five storylines headed into the game:

Will Gamecocks be rusty or ready?

Teams usually relish an open date, but not when they’re early in the season, of the unexpected variety and coming off a disheartening loss. South Carolina likely would have benefited from playing Marshall last week from a confidence standpoint if nothing else. Head coach Will Muschamp was happy with how his team handled the cancellation of the game and the ensuing practices, in which he and the players said he turned up the intensity. Still, it feels like a long time since the Gamecocks have taken the field, and it will be interesting to see how they look when they do.

Where’s the running game?

Two games in is too early to make a determination, especially when one of those games came against the best team in the division, but South Carolina at the moment finds itself in a familiar spot – 12th in the SEC in rushing offense. The Gamecocks are averaging 158.5 yards per game on the ground. The Commodores are 11th in the SEC in rushing defense, allowing 131.7 yards per game. Muschamp and first-year offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon agreed that the Gamecocks should have been more “hard-headed” in the run game against Georgia. Expect them to be very stubborn about it Saturday and don’t be surprised if South Carolina ends up with between 40 and 50 carries.

Is this road back to winning streak?

A trip to Nashville, Tenn., is a nice way to ease into the road schedule because the Commodores home stadium is hardly daunting. In fact, the trouble at Vanderbilt is more often that the traditionally smaller crowd and quieter venue makes it difficult for teams to get up for games. Still, there are the same logistical challenges that come with any road game, and the Gamecocks have enough new faces in the rotation that the adjustment could have an effect on how they play. Muschamp’s first win at South Carolina came at Vanderbilt, but he’s only won two conference road games since then.

Can Gamecocks disrupt Kyle Shurmur?

South Carolina will be without starting defensive end D.J. Wonnum (ankle) again, and the Gamecocks defensive line had depth issues even when Wonnum was healthy. Muschamp’s biggest defensive concern Saturday has to be the thought of veteran Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur sitting in the pocket with plenty of time to find a good handful of targets. If South Carolina can’t get pressure on Shurmur, he will pick them apart in small chunks all day long, keeping the ball out of the hands of the Gamecocks’ offense.

Will the bottom fall out?

It’s an exaggeration to say the momentum of the last two seasons of South Carolina football would fall completely apart with a loss to Vanderbilt, but it’s not a huge one. If the Gamecocks want to prove they have taken a step back into conference contention, they can’t lose to the Commodores or Kentucky next week. You simply can’t be on the right side of the division if you’re looking up at Vanderbilt or the Wildcats. South Carolina has won nine straight against Vanderbilt. If it doesn’t make it 10 on Saturday, it will feel like the sky is falling for a lot of people.

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