Keys to victory against Vanderbilt
I. Contain the Spread Option Offense
Whether it's junior Chris Nickson or Sophomore Mackenzi Adams who gets the nod at quarterback for the Commodores, the Gamecocks will need to contain the spread offense. Nickson is the more athletic of the two, while Adams is the more polished passer. It is no secret the read option gave South Carolina fits against Louisiana Lafayette and S.C. State, so look for Vanderbilt to exploit that. The South Carolina defense will need to play their assignments well and not miss tackles in order to stop them. Fortunately for the Gamecocks they have contained Nickson in the past, holding him to just 4 completions on 15 attempts last year, though he did add 70 yards on the ground.
II. Slow Down Earl Bennett
Junior wide receiver Earl Bennett is the heart and soul of the Vanderbilt offense and the team's biggest playmaker. The 6-1, 202 pound pass-catcher has 44 receptions on the year and will no doubt provide a huge test for the Gamecocks' secondary. USC's secondary has spent the year ranked as a top five passing defense, though they struggled at times with UNC in the second half. They will be looking to prove themselves again against one of the SEC's best receivers and may have to double Bennett for much of the day.
III. Play Four Quarters of Offense
The Gamecocks have struggled recently with consistency on offense and can't seem to play a full game at a high level. It nearly cost them a week ago in Chapel Hill, and they can't afford to continually fade in the second half against good teams down the stretch. South Carolina will need to stay balanced on offense and continue to move the ball in the second half. Numerous times against UNC they picked up good yardage on first and second downs only to get stopped on third and short. That trend will have to stop Saturday. The team will also have to respond well to two quarterbacks playing. Quarterback Chris Smelley will get the starting nod, but senior Blake Mitchell will play as well.
IV. Develop Continuity on the Offensive Line
The Time for the offensive line to step up its play is now. The USC coaches have been searching for the correct combination of the five players who give them the best chance to win for most of the year, and the time to find five and stick with them is here. Eight games into the season, the line will need to begin to show improvement and at least be consistently adequate in run and pass blocking. They need to at least get a body on every defender on every play as they have struggled with picking up the correct players at times. It was halftime of the Vanderbilt game last year when the coaches solidified the line by inserting Justin Sorenson into the lineup at right tackle.
V. Put Them Away
South Carolina has struggled for much of the season with putting teams away. This game will likely be close for most of the first half, but if the Gamecocks have a chance to put the Commodores away, they will need to take full advantage of the opportunity. Vanderbilt should have beat Georgia last week and likely won't let the chance at a big upset victory slip through their fingers again. If South Carolina continues to let teams they should beat hang around, it will eventually come back to bite them in a college football season filled with crazy upsets.
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