South Carolina has won 12 consecutive season-openers, but the Gamecocks are in for a test tonight against up-and-coming Vanderbilt in what figures to be an electric atmosphere. (Or will it?)
What follows is a breakdown of the game, with news, notes, quotes and anecdotes to help you make your bets.
Keep in mind: The “edge” is merely a suggestion, and not something we necessarily recommend playing.
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NO. 9 SOUTH CAROLINA AT VANDERBILT, 7 P.M. ET
OPEN: South Carolina -8.5 | CURRENT: South Carolina -6 | OVER/UNDER: 45 | TV: ESPN
SUMMARY: Vanderbilt’s looking for the first back-to-back postseason appearances in school history, while South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier thinks he’s finally built a team that can win him his first SEC championship since his days at Florida. In their first season under James Franklin in 2011, the Commodores scored more points than they had in any year since 1915, but the Gamecocks have a fierce front seven led by freak pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
THE SKINNY: South Carolina is in the preseason top 10, a position Spurrier was comfortable with at Florida in the 1990s but also one that hasn’t ever occurred in the Gamecocks’ history. Spurrier finally has a quarterback in Connor Shaw, a dual-threat that has great “escapability” and could really turn into a weapon.
Shaw, a junior, went 8-1 last season as the starter and really took off towards the end of the year, combining for 11 touchdowns and only one interception over the final three games, all double-digit victories.
“He’s a very good quarterback,” Spurrier told The State, “who we hope is going to turn into a really great one, an outstanding one.”
As much attention as Vanderbilt’s offense received in 2011 with QB Jordan Rodgers (younger brother of NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers) leading the way, it was the defense that was probably more impressive. They lost only four starters from a unit that ranked 18th nationally.
Franklin said his team is so confident right now they think they could beat the Green Bay Packers at home. “Belief is a very powerful thing,” he told reporters, “and we have that right now.”
EDGE: In 19 career games against Vanderbilt, Spurrier has lost only twice. This might be the best team he’ll face in those two decades, but tonight shouldn’t bring a third loss. Home teams generally do very well on ESPN’s Thursday Night Football, but Shaw and the defense should be too much for Vandy to handle.