If Vanderbilt plays how they did for most of the UMass game they are going to get smoked. If however they can channel the energy of that comeback and pair it with a smart game plan then there is always a shot. Here are the three keys.
1) Win on third down
South Carolina has been a weird team to work out through three games. They were legitimately torched in their opener against Texas A&M in one of the bigger opening week beat downs for a team some expected to challenge for a National Title in a long time. Perhaps feeling the hang over from this they were pushed hard by East Carolina before pulling away late. Then they go out and beat a Georgia team which had legitimate National Title hopes themselves, albeit thanks to a lucky bounce or five.
One of the standout stats from the Gamecocks start is their troubles on third and fourth down. Through three games their opponents have combined to convert on almost 60% of their chances to extend drives. South Carolina on the other hand is working at just a 38 percent conversion percentage. Obviously this is not a recipe which relates to a winning season. If Vandy can use the running game to get them into manageable third down situations then the odds are in the ‘Dores favor to convert.
2) Keep finding ways to score
For Vanderbilt to win this there is going to have to be a score come from somewhere other than the offense. Though the 34 points last week looks good on paper, it is actually pretty misleading. Two of the ‘Dores touchdowns came from defense and special teams, something which may have to be repeated given the inability of the Commodores offense to put together sustained scoring drives.
If Vanderbilt can get an outside the box score early then anything can happen in this game. The South Carolina defense has not been good to this point and the extra pressure which would come from such a score could lead to the Gamecocks shooting themselves in the foot again. At the very least Vandy will need a big play or two defensively to change field position, ideally though an interception or fumble recovery will be taken to the house and the upset will be on.
3) Make Ralph Webb the focus
This started to happen last week, but Webb needs the ball even more than he has seen so far. For the season he has turned 58 carries into 281 yards and a touchdown, with the bulk of that workload coming last Saturday. Webb can best be described as an angry runner. He has the ability to make yards even when his line blocks no one because of his power and ability to break tackles.
For Vandy to win they will have to control the tempo of the game and the time of possession. Running Webb, and spelling him effectively with Jerron Seymour, is the key to making that happen. The biggest issue Vandy faces in this regard is that the scheme and philosophy of offensive coordinator Karl Dorrell does not mesh at all with this run heavy approach. There is, however, a middle ground which needs to be found here if the Commodores are to have any success in 2014.
Three Keys Vanderbilt vs South Carolina
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