It’s hard to believe that South Carolina’s college football hopes of a BCS bowl game could lie in a win over Vanderbilt.
Yes, you heard me say that.
Now that the Gamecocks have a loss at the hands of SEC East partner Georgia, it cannot afford to slip up again if it wants a spot in the SEC Title game or a BCS Bowl Game.
Now, Steve Spurrier must rally his troops and prove he can win games after a huge defeat. Can Connor Shaw rebound and the defense readjust after giving up 41 points last week to Georgia?
On the other hand, this is a Vanderbilt team that appears to be on the rise, a team that was bowl eligible last season and one that James Franklin has them thinking wins instead of losses.
However, there is work still to be done.
The Commodores managed only 77 yards -- four on the ground -- in a 21-3 defeat at South Carolina two years ago. The Gamecocks notched five sacks in last season's nail-biter in Nashville to leave with a 17-13 victory, this according to ESPN.com.
While everyone is glued to a television to watch Alabama and Texas A&M play, there are other teams in the SEC who will be playing with a lot at stake. This game is one of them.
Here are three things to watch in this contest of SEC East rivals.
The let down of losing
Can the Gamecocks prove last week’s loss will not affect them?
There was so much emotion in the game last season with Georgia and SC, in a 35-7 romp, that losing by 11 last week left the team wondering what happened in Athens. It could lead to a letdown this week. Vanderbilt isn’t ranked but is hungry.
Jadeveon Clowney needs to become more effective as a defender this week. In ESPN”s assessment of this contest, it points out the need for more pass rushing and defensive pressure by Clowney and others.
“Clowney got his first sack at Georgia, but spent most of the game trying to chase down quarterback Aaron Murray, who threw for 309 yards and four touchdowns. It's been a frustrating start for Clowney, although his season stat line of six tackles and a sack is the same as his sophomore season when he finished with 13 sacks and a school record 24 tackles for loss,” the story explained.
Slowing Clowney won’t be easy
If Franklin and his staff thinks it can slow the big defensive lineman with tight ends and running backs as well as extra linemen, he may want to rethink that.
The school of theory on that with me is if all these players are being used to stop Clowney, other defenders will expose the offense for what it is and Vandy’s blocking and security would be exposed.
Hard work and repetition will allow the Gamecocks' defense to find itself again. Vanderbilt’s offense is not a juggernaut, but it is also not stagnant.
Better than average passing game
The Commodores have a decent quarterback in Austyn Carta-Samuels, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for another against Ole Miss, a game Vanderbilt lost, 39-35. The play from behind center will have to keep South Carolina off balance.
Also, Shaw must bounce back against Vanderbilt. Can the senior show moxey and leadership. While I make this sound like a do-or-die game, it is for a team that was expected to possibly win the SEC East and challenge for a national title. The fact Spurrier is on the sidelines should make the Gamecocks' fans feel better. But they will feel even better if they just get a win.