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Previewing Vanderbilt at South Carolina with Garnet and Black Attack

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Can Vanderbilt take advantage of a South Carolina team that abruptly lost a coaching legend five days before kickoff? We interview a Gamecock expert to find out how Steve Spurrier's departure will affect the team.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a rough week for the USCs of the college football world. Two recent powers, on each side of the country, now head into week seven of the season led by men with the "interim" label hastily slapped in front of their new job descriptions. At Southern California, Steve Sarkisian's alleged alcoholism left him unfit to lead the Trojans into battle. 2,400 miles away in Columbia, a 37-year career of divine playcalling and expert trolling finally caught up to one of the NCAA's greatest coaches.

Steve Spurrier walked away from the game on Monday, leaving the Gamecocks briefly coach-less as they prepared to host Vanderbilt for their annual Homecoming event. He was replaced by Shawn Elliot, the team's former offensive coordinator and a man whose Wikipedia link takes you to a stub about the guy who played Gaby's dad in the hit PBS show Ghostwriter. He'll look for his first win as a head coach against the Commodores on Saturday.

That leaves us with a lot to digest in the run-up to this weekend's game. Fortunately, we have some help. James Shahid is a writer over at Garnet and Black Attack, SBNation's South Carolina hub. He was kind enough to sit down with us and exchange some questions about what may be Derek Mason's biggest opportunity to post a conference win yet. Here's what he had to say about Spurrier's departure, the USC quarterback situation, and his thoughts about Saturday's outcome:

1. So, uh, how are you guys holding up after Monday? Will the Gamecocks will negatively affected by the HBC's departure?

James Shahid: I've been crying on the inside for the past 48 hours. Watching Spurrier walk away kinda feels like losing a friend or family member. Maybe that's a little strange, but Spurrier became as close to me as a family member over the past ten years. Maybe I need to reassess my life. It's been an emotionally straining week. Needless to say, I'm gonna miss the man.

Overall, I think this is a positive thing and I don't doubt Spurrier made the right decision, but it's gonna be a tough pill to swallow at first.

2. Connor Mitch practiced this week - his first field time since he was injured in the season opener. Do you expect him to play on Saturday? What kind of impact would his potential return have on this team?

I doubt Mitch will see any time on the field this weekend. But, then again, I have no idea what the product will look like on Saturday. And to be honest, given what we saw with Mitch on the field this season, I don't really think he'll have that much greater of an impact than Orth or Nunez if/when he does return. This isn't to say Mitch won't improve and compete for the starting job in the future, he's just no more ready to start than either of the other two guys who have this year.

3. Pharoh Cooper has more combined rushing/receiving yards (515) than anyone else on the roster - and it's not even close (next man up is Brandon Wilds with 250). How do you stop a player like that? And, do the Gamecocks have any other playmakers that can will this team to a win if Derek Mason's defense finds a way to limit Cooper?

If the Gamecocks had some sort of threat outside of Cooper, his numbers may look even better. Cooper is by far the best athlete for the Gamecocks offense and while I'm sure the game plan already centers around getting him the football, he needs it in his hands even more. I think the best way to stop him is by pressuring the guy getting him the ball, but that's been getting more and more difficult as the coaches have found more creative ways to get him involved.

Honestly, no. At this point in the season, I can't tell you there's a true playmaker outside of Cooper. I could toss some names out there, but due to injuries amongst other things, another option just hasn't prevailed.

4. Skai Moore is having an All-SEC year, but the rest of the Gamecock defense has combined to give up 29 points per game. Is that the function of a tough early schedule, or are there some fatal flaws that can't be fixed in 2015 that are beginning to shine through?

Unfortunately, the optimism that swirled around this defense in the offseason, hasn't lived up to expectations. That said, the unit has shown sporadic signs of improvement. I'm not ready to give up on this defense just yet, the most important thing is that they stay the course and continue to improve with every rep.

We knew Skai would be the anchor this year, but the linebacker unit as a whole is the strength for the d. T.J. Holoman is a guy that's really stepped up to support Moore in the middle line.

5. Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday's matchup?

Honestly, I have no idea. It's just impossible to predict what kinda team comes out of the tunnel this Saturday. The most important thing right now is for Shawn Elliot to unite this team. The worst thing that could happen now is for the players to turn on each other and fall apart.

I like the Gamecocks to squeak out with a W.