South Carolina looks to keep alive its slim hopes of an SEC East title when it hosts Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Gamecocks have won eight straight meetings and 22 of 26 all-time, but they had to rally from a 10-point halftime deficit for a 13-10 victory in last season’s opener.
Both teams are coming off bye weeks, but they’re headed in opposite directions. With a win, South Carolina would become bowl-eligible for the 13th time in 14 seasons, and it technically still is in the SEC East title race, although it needs to win at Georgia next week and get some help in the form of someone handing the Bulldogs a second conference loss. The Commodores went into SEC play riding high after a 14-7 win over Kansas State, but they’ve lost their first four conference games by an average margin of 31.5 points. Vanderbilt hasn’t beaten South Carolina since 2008.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: South Carolina -7.5
ABOUT VANDERBILT (3-4, 0-4 SEC): The Commodores have some juice on offense with Kyle Shurmur (1,331 yards, 14 touchdowns, 2 interceptions) leading an improved passing game and running back Ralph Webb picking up his production after a slow start to the season. They also boast one of the nation’s best pass defenses, holding opponents to 170.4 yards per game. The run defense has been awful, however, allowing at least 200 yards in five straight games - including 400 or more against Alabama and Georgia.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (5-2, 3-2): South Carolina’s defense took center stage in a 15-9 win at Tennessee two weeks ago, racking up a season-high seven sacks while surrendering only 253 total yards. The Gamecocks have been especially tough in the red zone, allowing only 12 touchdowns on 26 trips inside the 20 – tied for second in the SEC. The Gamecocks have endured a couple of key injuries on offense, losing star receiver Deebo Samuel and No. 2 rusher Rico Dowdle, so sophomore running back Ty’Son Williams likely will have to be the focal point of the offense to have success against Vanderbilt.
1. Vanderbilt has scored more than 17 points only five times in 26 meetings.
2. South Carolina has held all seven opponents below their season scoring average – Vanderbilt averages 22.4 points.
3. Webb needs 46 yards to surpass Leonard Fournette, Carnell Williams and Sonny Collins and move into 11th place on the SEC’s all-time rushing list.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 20