South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Vanderbilt Commodores
The Vanderbilt Commodores and the South Carolina Gamecocks kick off the 2012 College Football season as they meet on Thursday Night in Nashville. The Gamecocks are -7 point favorites against the Commodores with an over/under point total set at 46.5.
Last season the Vanderbilt Commodores entered the college football season with a new Head Coach and modest expectations and went to a bowl game, this year they have more experience and are looking to build on last year’s success and get a bowl win. Offensively Vandy has depth across the board and while that means that there will be challenges for playing time, it also means plenty of players who can get the job done. Jordan Rodgers is the QB and in games he started the Commodores averaged over 31 points per game, a nine point improvement from where they were before him but if Rodgers struggles Vandy has a viable option in Austyn Carta-Samuels who transfers from Wyoming where he was a former MWC Freshman of the Year. Speaking of former FOY’s Warren Norman is back in the fold at running back after missing all of last season and he is currently third on the depth chart but if he regains form he is one of the best overall backs in the country though Zac Stacy is the starter despite lacking breakaway speed. Jordan Mathews and Chris Boyd emerged as solid receivers last season and Vandy returns the entire left side of the offensive line. Vandy lost their two best defensive players from last season, Chris Marve and Casey Heyward, but they should still be solid. The Vanderbilt defensive line is experienced with three returning starters led by Walker May. The Commodroes are thin at linebacker but Chase Graham looked good last year and he moves to the MLB spot where Marve used to be. Vandy is still strong at corner with Trey Wilson and Andre Hal while Javon Marshall is back at safety. Vanderbilt was 61st in scoring last year and 98th in total offense while but they were 18th in total defense. Special teams were an issue as far as field goal kicking as Vandy failed to make a field goal longer than 37 yards and only converted 8 of 14 attempts overall.
The South Carolina Gamecocks enter the season nationally ranked in the top 10 but as always Steve Spurrier has just one goal for his team, winning the SEC. Last season the Gamecocks dodged Alabama and LSU, this year they don’t play Bama but do travel to LSU. Connor Shaw returns at QB and he was a better runner than passer a year ago but he got better as the year went on and with another year under his belt the expectations are bigger. Marcus Lattimore missed most of last season with a knee injury but the Heisman Trophy candidate and future first round NFL draft choice is back and expect South Carolina to lean on him heavily. Alshon Jeffery is gone at receiver so it is up to the talented trio of Ace Sanders, DeAngelo Smith, and D.L. Moore to step up though the Gamecocks ran about 65 percent of the time last year. The defense should be strong once again in Columbia as Jadevon Clowney showed signs last year that he was all that was advertised as a highly touted recruit and look for him to make a statement this year as Devin Taylor on the other side can’t be ignored. DeVonte Holloman moves from safety to linebacker and should be able to blow up game plans from that spot. Akeem Auguste was being counted on to replace Stephon Gilmore in the secondary but he doesn’t look to be recovered from injury so it will be an inexperienced group aside from D.J. Swearinger who is returning. South Carolina was 74th in total offense last year and third in total defense with a plus five turnover ratio.
Vanderbilt is 7-1 against the spread in their last eight home games, 4-1 against the spread in their last five SEC games, and 1-5 against the spread in their last six games as an underdog up to 10 points. South Carolina is 4-1 against the spread in their last five games as a favorite, 5-2 against the spread in their last seven road games, and 7-2 against the spread in their last nine Thursday night games. The road team is 6-2-1 against the spread in the last nine meetings of these two.
Look for some conservative play and for the offenses to still not be 100 percent in sync against two pretty solid defenses and with the total set at 46.5 I have this one coming in under the total.