Vanderbilt meets South Carolina on Saturday in Columbia. VandyMania.com's Don Yates compares the two teams in several critical areas. He also makes a prediction on the game's final score.



Vandy is ninth in the SEC in total offense averaging 412 yards a game, but the Commodores are tied for last in TDs scored with 11. Vanderbilt has the fifth most productive passing offense (yard wise) in the SEC averaging 256 yards per game.  Unfortunately 11 other SEC teams have more TD passes than the five Vandy has.   Two weeks ago against MTSU Vandy starting quarterback Johnny McCrary passed for 177 yards while completing 18 of 31 passes for two interceptions.  On the season McCrary has completed 111-of-190 passes for 1,251 yards, five touchdowns and seven interceptions.  His top receiving target is Trent Sherfield who has 34 catches for 465 yards and two TDs.   Running back Ralph Webb has 17 receptions for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns.  Sherfield set a new school record for receiving yards with 240 against Austin Peay.   Vandy blockers have allowed six sacks this season. 

South Carolina has the 12th best pass defense in the SEC allowing 220 yards per game (9 TDs).   In Baton Rouge last week the Gamecocks limited Tiger quarterback Brandon Harris to 228 yards on 18-of-28 completions with no interceptions or TDs.  Linebacker Skai Moore leads Carolina in interceptions with three.  Another linebacker, T.J. Holloman, has a pair of picks.   The Gamecock defense has sacked opposing quarterback 10 times this season.  Defensive tackle Dante Sawyer is the ring leader in that category with 2 ½. 



Vanderbilt’s rushing offense is 10th in the SEC gaining 157 yards per game.  The Vanderbilt rushing attack is led by Ralph Webb who has 437 yards on 108 carries (4.0 ypc).  Webb had 155 yards two weeks ago against MTSU and scored the winning touchdown. Quarterback Johnny McCrary is the second best rusher on the team with 160 yards on 34 carries for two TDs.  The Commodore offensive line showed some improvement against MTSU after struggling to run on the likes of Austin Peay earlier in the season. 

The Gamecock rushing defense is next to last in the SEC allowing 208 yards per game.  Last week at LSU the Gamecocks gave up 396 yards rushing on 54 attempts (7.3 ypc).  Skai Moore leads the Gamecocks in tackles with 58 including 38 solos and 3 ½ tackles for losses.   Free safety Isaiah Johnson has 35 tackles. 



USC is 13th in the SEC in total offense, averaging 342 yards per game.  South Carolina’s passing offense averages 171 yards a game, good for 12th in the SEC.    Junior quarterback Perry Orth, a former walk-on, has completed 37-of-75 for 483 yards and 3 TDs.  Orth will be making his third start of the season when he faces the Commodores.  Last week at LSU he completed 14 of 25 passes for 200 yards, an interception and two touchdowns.   Wide receiver Pharoh Cooper has 33 catches for 427 yards and three touchdowns.  He was a preseason All-SEC selection.  South Carolina blockers have allowed 10 sacks this season. 

Vandy’s passing defense is 11th best in the SEC with the Commodores averaging 213 yards a game.  However, Vandy has faced three prolific passing attacks and allowed just four total passing TDs.  Cornerback Torren McGaster (6) and safety Oren Burks (5) are the top Dores at breaking up passes.   Burks has an interception this season as well as Jahmel McIntosh.   Vanderbilt defenders have sacked opposing QBs nine times this season.  Nine different Commodores have recorded a sack. 



The Gamecocks feature the ninth best rushing offense in the conference, averaging 170 yards per game.  Gamecock running back David Williams (6-1, 222) has 193 yards rushing on 51 carries (3.5 ypc).   He had 25 yards on seven carries against LSU.  Backup running back Shon Carson has 37 carries of for 188 yards and 1 TD.   The Gamecocks have a fullback listed on their depth chart but he hasn’t carried the ball this season.   The USC offensive line has three senior starters along with 6-foot-9, 314 pound junior right tackle Mason Zandi.

Vanderbilt’s rushing defense is fifth best in the conference, holding opponents to just 107.4 yards per game on the ground.  Inside linebacker Zach Cunningham has performed well in the absence of Nigel Bowden.  Cunningham has a team leading 35 tackles including 20 solos and 4 ½ tackles for losses.   Oren Burks has 28 stops.  Defensive linemen Stephen Weatherly and Adam Butler each have four tackles for losses.    This area is rated “EVEN” because the ‘Dores haven’t faced many strong running teams other than Georgia. 



Return man Darrius Sims has 14 kickoff returns for 300 yards (21.4 avg).  Last year against USC he returned two for touchdowns.  He had a season long return of 47 yards against Ole Miss.   Three different players have returned punts for the Commodores. Ryan White has done the best averaging 12.5 yards per return.   Tommy Openshaw both punts and kicks for the Commodores.  He averages 41.5 yards per punt with a long of 66 yards. He’s had one punt blocked.   Openshaw has made 10 of 15 field goals with a long of 49 yards. He has made 6 of 8 from the 40-49 distance but just 4 of 6 from the 1-39 range.    Vandy kick/punt coverage units have been somewhat solid this season but the ‘Dores did give up a 77-yard punt return to Georgia.  Vandy blocked a punt at Ole Miss.   Vandy has done some good things on special teams but in every game except MTSU there has been a major game changing type blunder such as a bad snap, long punt return for a TD, muffed punts, etc.   

USC kicker Elliot Fry has made 11-of15 field goals this season.  He kicked a 52-yard field goal in the win over UCF and attempted but missed a 57-yarder against North Carolina.   Punter Sean Kelly has 24 punts for a 42.2 yard average. He has a long punt of 60 yards.     Return man Rashad Fenton averages 59 yards per return on two returns this season.  Last week at LSU he had a 96-yard scoring run.   Pharoh Cooper also returns punts, averaging 10 yards on five returns with a long of 24 yards.  The Gamecocks kick and punt coverage units have been solid. 



 Derek Mason is in his second season at Vanderbilt with a 5-12 (.294) overall record.  Prior to Vanderbilt Mason was a successful defensive coordinator at Stanford.  In 2012 Mason was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach.  Mason has some NFL coaching experience serving stints with the Vikings, Raiders, Giants and Rams.

Shawn Elliott was named the interim head coach for South Carolina on Tuesday.  He previously was the co-offensive coordinator and running game coordinator for the Gamecocks.   He also coached at his alma mater Appalachian State where helped the Mountaineers win three FCS national championships.  



Williams-Brice Stadium is very tough place to play with a hostile crowd.  It will be homecoming for the Gamecocks and look for some extra motivation to be in the air due to the hardships endured by the local populace.  The team will also be rallying around their new ball coach while wanting to send off their old ball coach in a winning manner.  Vandy can get to 3-3 with a win.  The Commodores are coming off a bye week and have had time to heal and put in a few new glitches to make the offense more potent. 

PREDICTION:  Vanderbilt 20, South Carolina 17.    The Commodores can’t afford to go down there being Mr. Nice guy.  Show your respects but play hard and bring home a win.   One non-smart penalty (such as Tennessee 2011) could cost the Commodores this game.   The Vandy offense has improved greatly over 2014 but they need to put more points on the board.   

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