Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.
Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.
We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...
There is expected to be a lot of hype and enthusiasm in Nashville for the season-opener against Vanderbilt. A "blackout" has been planned for the fans. Will South Carolina be intimidated by the atmosphere?
PORTER: I think that the atmosphere will give Vanderbilt a little more motivation, but I don't see it affecting this team. This team has gone to venues like Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, and Clemson in big games the past two years and won. It doesn't matter what Vandy does, it's not going to affect the Gamecocks. Carolina fans know all too well what happened the last time a team coached by Spurrier played against an opponent having a "blackout."
GARRETT: This could be one of the better environments that Vanderbilt has had in recent years, but it shouldn't affect the Gamecocks. They won't be intimidated by the atmosphere in Nashville as they have grown accustomed to larger venues. It should be an exciting time in Vanderbilt but the Gamecocks have a lot of steady veterans who have been in the trenches and played in some big time games. They'll be ready on Thursday night.
LOHD: No way. South Carolina football is on a mission for 2012. They will have their blinders on and ready to take care of business. The ‘Dores attempt at hype will not phase them.
MLS: Nothing against Vandy, but I don't think that stadium has the capability of getting rowdy enough to play a factor. If the Gamecocks can win in Athens, Knoxville or Clemson, Nashville shouldn't be any more difficult for them. I read today that Vanderbilt was having a hard time selling out the opener, if that's any indicator. The Gamecocks have more to fear with the personnel that Vandy puts on the field, not the crowd.
Vanderbilt's Zac Stacy was one of the top running backs in the SEC in 2011 amassing 1,193 yards and 14 TD's. What should be the game-plan for neutralizing the running threat for the Commodores?
PORTER: A lot of people are underestimating the Vanderbilt offense, particularly the running game. Zac Stacy was quietly one of the best running backs in the league last year and he is a great running back. South Carolina has to be very physical up front. The monsters like Byron Jerideau and Kelcy Quarles need to clog up the middle and Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney must control the outside. If they can keep Stacy inside they will do well against him. If he is allowed to get to the corner and into one-on-one play he could have a big day.
GARRETT: Zac Stacy seems to be a forgotten man in the talk of talented SEC running backs. He's got the talent to take control of the game for Vanderbilt and he could be a big contributor on Thursday. South Carolina will need to play disciplined football up front on the line of scrimmage. Clowney and Taylor have the speed to contain plays from breaking outside and South Carolina's interior of Byron Jerideau and Kelcy Quarles have the strength to be physical up the middle. Throw in a veteran linebacker group with an exceptional run-stopper at the SPUR position in Devonte Holloman and Carolina can slow down the run game for the Commodores.
Remember, South Carolina did hold Stacy to 18 yards on seven carries last year.
LOHD: Coach Ward knows that he has a solid front four and the game plan should be to tell those boys up front to get after it. Unleash Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney and allow them to go to work.
MLS: It's going to be a solid test for the line-backing core of Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowens and Devonte Holoman. The defensive line should be able to keep pressure on Rodgers, which in turn will force Vandy to stick with the run. The linebackers will have to remain focused on their assignments in order to give the entire defense the chance to be successful.
The running back situation has taken a hit in recent weeks for the Gamecocks with the loss of Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds to injury. Does this put added pressure on Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles to produce? Do you think Mike Davis sees the field against Vanderbilt?
PORTER: I wouldn't say it puts too much pressure on Lattimore and Miles. Both knew they were going to get the majority of the carries in close games. We all know what Lattimore can do and Miles has one of the best yards per carry average in school history. Both will be counted on to produce, but I don't think there's any extra pressure. The only way Davis sees the field is if they absolutely have to use him. With Monday's news that Wilds ‘could' be back next week they would love to redshirt Davis.
GARRETT: Pressure shouldn't be a term used when talking about Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles. They know they'll be relied upon greatly on Thursday night but are in some of the best shapes of their careers. They can handle whatever load they may need to carry for the Gamecocks.
Mike Davis will likely see the field in an emergency situation. If Miles or Lattimore were to suffer an injury, then you will see Davis at some point against Vanderbilt. If the Gamecocks are able to get by on Lattimore and Miles against Vanderbilt, Mike Davis will likely redshirt due to the imminent return of Brandon Wilds.
LOHD: No pressure. Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles can shoulder the load. Look to Lattimore to get the job done and get around 15-20 carries. Miles will get around 10. I don't want to see Mike Davis as I would love to see him redshirted to preserve that talent for future years.
MLS: Latty appears to be a pretty composed player. After last reason, Spurrier knows what he has out of the running backs. They're well coached and an overall extremely talented unit. I would expect to see Lattimore get the bulk of the carries, but I'm also expecting to see a healthy dose of Kenny Miles and perhaps Mike Davis. I have a feeling that Mike Davis will get a few carries. He's done everything that's been asked thus far in camp and in practice. Spurrier reiterated this week that Davis was the No. 3 back, but I still think he gets a shot on primetime Thursday night.
What Gamecock on offense and defense has a big game this Thursday?
PORTER: I'm going to refrain from going with the obvious choices here of Lattimore, Shaw, and Clowney. I think Ace Sanders will have a great game. With no more Alshon Jeffery it is his time to step it up. Look for Sanders to have a very good game. On the other side of the ball I'm going to go with the guy that seems like he's been here for 12 years. Shaq Wilson has quietly put together a solid fall camp and Carolina will need him to get after Stacy and the other running backs.
GARRETT: On offense, I really think Jerell Adams could have a big game on Thursday. He's the tall, physical receiving threat this offense needs and has shown a propensity to make the big play this fall. On defense, I'll lean towards Victor Hampton. He seems to have matured this offseason and will have a lot on his shoulders considering the depth issues at the cornerback position.
LOHD: Easy choice would be Marcus Lattimore on offense as he will get a lot of touches and screen looks. He will lay the foundation for a strong run at having a stellar season. On defense, I like the chances of Jadeveon Clowney to get 2-3 sacks and be a disruptor on the line.
MLS: You've got the usual suspect in Marcus Lattimore, which is obvious. I think Connor Shaw and Ace Sanders both put together solid ball games. Until Connor can earn the trust of some of the younger guys out there, he's going to rely on his speedy slot man. Defensively, I think it's the Jadeveon Clowney and D.J. Swearinger show Thursday night. Both motors are going be turned up and I think Clowney will get some good opportunities in this one, allowing D.J. to be the hitman that he is in the secondary.
Vanderbilt had four losses against quality SEC opponents by a touchdown or less last season. Do the Commodores have enough to keep this game close with the Gamecocks?
PORTER: Anyone that thinks Carolina will simply show up and roll over the Commodores is sadly mistaken. This isn't your daddy's Vanderbilt anymore. They're no longer the Duke of the SEC. As unbelievable as it sounds, Vandy could have easily won eight or nine games last season if they got a few bounces go their way. I believe Vandy will upset a conference opponent, I just don't think it will be Carolina. Carolina may pull away late with its depth, but this is going to be a tough battle.
GARRETT: This Vanderbilt team really improved last season when Jordan Rodgers took over at quarterback. The offense has a chance to be even better this season considering they return nine starters from last year's team. They have enough to keep this game competitive but the depth just isn't there right now to compete with South Carolina for four quarters. It should be a well-fought game between two teams.
LOHD: It will be a little tight as Vandy is a sound team on both sides of the ball. Also something about Vandy does not bring out the very best from Carolina. Take all that and this being the first game whereas the playbook calling is limited plus the team trying to gel. Well, it will play into a game that may be a little too close for half the game. But don't fret as USC will handle business in the second half.
MLS: They've got some weapons, there's no doubt about that. Jordan Rodgers really stepped up last season when he took over as the starter. He's learning from his older brother, who just so happens to be arguably the best quarterback in the NFL. Knowing that he's the unquestioned starter this season has probably given him some more confidence and allowed him to get more comfortable with the offense. Rodgers can absolutely be capable of keeping the Commodores within reach.
Vanderbilt lost some key contributors in the secondary in cornerback Casey Heyward and safety Sean Richardson. Will these losses allow the Gamecocks to attack Vanderbilt through the air?
PORTER: Absolutely. Vandy's ball hawking secondary caused problems for a lot of teams, Carolina including. They will still be very solid in the secondary, but they have no one on the roster that comes close to Heyward and Richardson. Shaw should have a much better game than Stephen Garcia had last year.
GARRETT: A lot of talk this offseason was about the loss of Alshon Jeffery in the passing game. It's a big loss for the Gamecocks but it seems that the passing attack could have more balance with a lot of equal talent across the board. Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington have looked great and even senior D.L. Moore has stepped up his game this offseason. Throw in the talented tight end group and freshman receiver Shaq Roland and the Gamecocks should be able to move the ball through the air.
Former Gamecock Stephen Garcia threw four interceptions in last year's 21-3 win over Vanderbilt. Don't expect Connor Shaw to do the same. Less turnovers equals more opportunities for the Gamecocks.
LOHD: I sure hope so. I would love to see Connor Shaw have a field day and pick apart the Vandy secondary. The USC wide outs would love nothing more to dispel the myths that they are suspect. The speed of Sanders and Byrd to go with the play-making abilities in Roland could yield a big day out of the offense.
MLS: Last season the Gamecocks showed that they were a run-first offense after the departure of Stephen Garcia. With the personnel Spurrier has assembled on the offense, it's proven that it works. But now would be as good a time as any for Connor Shaw to really step out and show that he is capable of making some big plays through the air. It'd be encouraging to see him take some shots downfield after establishing an early lead. Those shots will also help us see who becomes our next vertical threat now that Alshon is in the windy city catching passes from the former Commodore, Jay Cutler.
PORTER: It's tough predicting how the first game will go. If the right Carolina team shows up they win easily. If they don't play their best it will be another close contest between the two teams. Vandy stays within striking distance for a while, but the Gamecocks put some points on the board in the fourth to secure the win. Carolina wins 24-13.
GARRETT: I've thought this game would be a close contest for a few quarters with the depth taking over for the Gamecocks. The weather could play a factor and neutralize things for both teams but South Carolina just has too many playmakers to come away with a loss.
Gamecocks win 27-14.
LOHD: Gamecocks will win this game 31-17 due to a second half push.
MLS: 27-13 Gamecocks. The game might open up a little sloppy and stay close for the first quarter. I think after the jitters are gone the Gamecocks finish the first game of the season with a balanced performance on both sides of the ball. 1-0!