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Saturday Predictions: South Carolina at Vanderbilt

Let me get one thing off my chest. I love Stephen Garcia. Not because the oft-maligned South Carolina quarterback is finally having a breakout year, but rather because he's a big dumb animal on the field. His solution to any problem on the field is to put his head down and run directly through it. His style of play is so reckless that train accidents across the country stop what they're doing to watch the Gamecocks play so they can get some pointers. The NFL's helmet-to-helmet hit crackdown last week wasn't enacted due to any vicious hits, but rather as a consequence of Garcia's rising draft stock and how many defensive backs he'd end up concussing. Brandon Meriwether watched Garcia's play from 2009 and shit his pants in anticipation. If Garcia were playing QB in the 1980s, he could have effectively teamed up with Hulkamania to brutally and forcefully end the Cold War. Yes, Stephen Garcia is that awesome.

However, 2010 has transformed Garcia from human missile powered by Pantera lyrics to effective quarterback. Suddenly, the 22 year old senior is completing more of his passes, showing more patience in the pocket, and playing an efficient game to lead the Gamecocks to a 4-2 record and wins over #22 Georgia and #1 Alabama along the way. He's even been solid in losses, going for 382 yards and two touchdowns in an upset loss to Kentucky, and three touchdowns and 235 yards in an eight point loss to undefeated Auburn. Garcia has shown more poise behind center, allowing for some excellent football instincts to rise to the surface of his game; even if it's at the expense of watching him barrel into some monster linebacker for a two yard gain.

In short, the excitement I get from the possibility of watching Garcia concuss his way to a 210 passer rating against the 'Dores might just be the only enthusiasm I can muster up for Saturday's game after the 43-0 stomping in Athens last week. That beating instantly made it to the custom made highlight reel that Satan uses to taunt Cornelius Vanderbilt in hell every day. It was so bad, Larry Smith's passer rating was considered for an ASPCA ad narrated by Sarah McLachlan.

Well, now that that is out of the way, let's get to some prognosticating. Will any of our faithful choose a Vanderbilt home upset? Do the Commodores have a chance to cover a surprisingly low 12 point spread? Will Coach Robbie Caldwell become so frustrated that he resigns in order to get back to his true passion in life - catching those Duke boys? We've got (no) answers for you, after the jump.

Train Island - The events of last week really couldn't have gone worse to set up this week's action. Not only did the 'Dores get stomped by a sub-.500 team, but any luster of a possible South Carolina upset was utterly crapped on by Kentucky. Now, they get a motivated USC squad and eventually a very capable and now confident team three weeks later in the Wildcats. It's entirely possible that when we reflect upon this season, we'll mark October 16 as the day our hopes for the Vanderbilt football team died.

But it's too soon to set our sights on basketball season. This is still a talented, but flawed, product on the field, and they can still rack up a few wins and spoil some BCS bids along the way. However, South Carolina looks like a bad matchup for that. Vanderbilt needs Warren Norman and Zac Stacy to get it going on the ground in order to have any success offensively, and they'll be facing a Gamecock squad that has just destroyed opposing rushing attacks (excepting Auburn and uber-QB Cam Newton). Take a look at these stats:

Team Attempts Yards Yards/Attempt Touchdowns
Georgia 26 61 2.3 0
Alabama 29 36 1.2 0
Kentucky 33 52 1.6 0

Granted, Auburn ripped them for over 300 yards on the ground, but other than that performance the 'Cocks have been especially stingy to the run game. That does not bode well for the Commodores. USC is strong in the other area that Vanderbilt must improve on as well - keeping Larry Smith upright. South Carolina has 22 sacks through six games and though most of those came early in the season against weaker opposition, you can make the case that Vandy's o-line is more similar to Furman's (seven sacks) than Alabama's (one sack). If Smith is being chased around the backfield before he can even locate a target downfield, it'll be another long day for the 'Dores.

How does Vanderbilt win this game? If the defense can force Stephen Garcia into mistakes and capitalize on turnovers, they can celebrate a happy Homecoming with a win. However, this isn't the Garcia of the past and it will be tough to force a very tough Steve Spurrier squad into making enough bad decisions to overcome what looks to be a poor offensive showing. In the end, if the Commodores can't get some points from the defense or special teams, they'll be in some real trouble Saturday.

Prediction: South Carolina 27, Vanderbilt 10. Ugh.

***

KingJamesIV - I'M BACK FOLKS! Back in off the ledge! Sorry for the paucity of posts over the last three days while I was away on a corporate retreat. Not even a delayed flight home which would cause me to miss my connection which resulted in an earlier first leg flight than I had prepared for only to be left sitting here in the Tampa airport for the next 3 hours is going to stop me from adding my predictions. Free internet, ftw!

Spurrier has been salivating over playing the Commodores all week. Who wouldn't be after the brown, football-like substance the Commodores deposited all over the field at Sanford Stadium last week against Georgia? The OBC is coming to town and he is on the warpath.

Frankly, I felt about the same heading into the Ole Miss game that I do right now. Excepting, of course, that South Cackalcky hasn't exactly lost to Jacksonville State this season. Or us. But, we had just come off a horrible showing against LSU in which our offense was completely unbearable. I don't have to make image of an excel spreadsheet to prove out that Vanderbilt is up-and-down like a clock this year. I literally set my watch by it, it is so precise:

Northwestern - Close loss. Could have won. Upish.
LSU - Terrible. Down.
Ole Miss - Our "where did that come from?" moment. Up.
UConn - Aside from the second quarter equivalent of tourette's that our offense suffered, terrible. Down.
E. Michigan - Yes, but against one of the worst teams in the FBS division. Upish.
UGA - The only comparisons I can think of are extremely offensive to various groups of people. So I will write in all caps. DOWN.
SCAR - UP????

And it would be scarring to USC and the OBC to lose to Vandy. Mentally and emotionally scarring. And it is on this completely reliable and intelligent rationale that I will be making my prediction of a Commodore upset. Though I don't actually expect it to happen.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 27, USC 24. And there will be much rejoicing and consumption. And plenty more of this: