- George W. Bush was the President.
- Lehman Brothers and the Atlanta Thrashers still existed.
- Katie Couric had not yet interviewed Sarah Palin.
- Tiger Woods was just three months removed from his last major win
So... yeah, it’s been a while. September 4, 2008, a Thursday night when the Commodores prevailed 24-17 over the Gamecocks at Vanderbilt Stadium. Somehow, Vanderbilt is just 4-22 against South Carolina since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992; over that same span, Vanderbilt is 5-21 against both Georgia and Tennessee. And two of Vanderbilt’s wins in the series came against Gamecock teams that finished the season 1-10 and 0-11, by scores of 17-14 and 11-10. (Woodyball!)
Will Vanderbilt break whatever voodoo South Carolina has over them on Saturday?
Vanderbilt has a lot of positive vibes coming off its moral victory against Notre Dame last Saturday. The Commodores had a chance to win the game late, ultimately losing 22-17, with a fumble at the goal line and an interception in the end zone taking away scoring chances.
Those positive vibes will last only until the next loss, though. This team has proven that it is capable of competing with top teams on the road, so they should be able to beat an unranked South Carolina team at home, right? Except that’s a task that always seems to elude Vanderbilt. This will be a stupid, stupid game in which Vanderbilt will dominate the yardage but shoot themselves in the foot with penalties, turnovers, and mental errors, losing on a late field goal because of course the kicker just hit his career long. That is the history of the entire series against South Carolina in a single sentence, and it will hold again on Saturday.
(DO YOU SEE WHAT I AM DOING, COMMENTARIAT? DO YOU SEE?)
The Pick: South Carolina 20, Vanderbilt 17
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Mississippi State-Kentucky being a more interesting game and having more impact on the SEC race than Florida-Tennessee? That’s an upset.
Few teams in the SEC bring out the “same old Vandy” in Vanderbilt like the Gamecocks. South Carolina has won the last nine meetings between these teams, the last two of which may have been the most frustrating. In 2016, the Commodores were doomed by Derek Mason’s decision to inexplicably switch quarterbacks in the first half. In 2017, it was a late holding penalty that proved to be the final, impassable obstacle.
So the pessimist in me wants to know how this year’s loss will outshine last week’s crushingly canceled comeback against Notre Dame. Fumble in the end zone? Game winning touchdown called back on offensive pass interference? Game forfeited when Bane erupts a series of bombs underneath Dudley Field?
But the optimist in me sees the strides Vanderbilt’s defense has made despite a long list of departures from 2017 and how composed Kyle Shurmur has been behind center. Shurmur’s got two great targets in Jared Pinkney and Kalija Lipscomb, who are really coming into their own as receivers (Pinkney is averaging more than 20 yards per catch! (!!)). The Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Khari Blasingame, Jamauri Wakefield tailback trio is working. This looks like the best Commodore team Derek Mason has ever had.
This week, I’m rolling with my happy side. Jake Bentley needed a ton of passes to get to 269 yards against Georgia and I think Mason’s secondary, bolstered by a blitz-heavy pass rush, and push him into a similarly inefficient performance Saturday. A few big negative plays will be the difference between an upset win and heartbreak. Vandy’s got the chops to be the side that benefits from those plays.
The pick: Vanderbilt 27, South Carolina 21
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Can the above pick count? Because otherwise I’m stuck trying to talk myself into Arkansas over Auburn or Tennessee over anyone, and that hurts my heart.
Mason has described this game as, “a street fight.” To me this indicates his perspective that Vandy will be at a disadvantage in the talent department- specifically on defense. He wants his team out tough and not back down, gritting out a victory at home.
That’s why I want to lean towards USCe. But my heart says Vandy. So they’ll win, and here’s how.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Gamecocks will be marching down the field to take the lead. Bentley, on the drive, will be efficient and confident. At the Vandy 35 yard line, he’ll take a three step drop and throw a seam route to the tight end. An unknown DB without a nameplate on the back will jump the pass and intercept it, weaving down through the offensive tacklers and up the sideline for a victory securing score.
When he reaches the endzone, the sound of glass breaking blares over the PA. Guest announcer Jim Ross yells out, “Good god, is that Derek Mason’s musics?! The DB rips off his helmet and his shoulder pads. Underneath is a shirtless Derek Mason wearing only a vest. He grabs two coldies from under the goalpost pad and chugs them becoming the greatest coach of all time.
But really, I think the Vandy offense will show a game plan similar to that against ND, but with more downfield explosive plays. The defense will struggle late with the talent that South Carolina has, but will capitalize on a hurried Bentley and pick him twice.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 27, South Carolina 23
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Kentucky over Mississippi St. Maybe when two teams haven’t really played anybody, one team shouldn’t be ranked 14th? Especially when one team has a first year head coach and is playing on the road against the other team who had their biggest victory in literally 30 years the week before.
VandyTigerPhD: As I have pointed out, these games always feel a lot closer than they end up being. Sometimes that has come down to non-call PIs, sometimes it’s come down to absurd luck with Carolina kickers, but many times it has been Vanderbilt being “same old Vandy”. CDA is right in this regard - few games bring out the old demons like this match-up.
This brings me to last week’s game. Vanderbilt did not bring its A game to South Bend. Had they brought their A game, it would have been a Vanderbilt victory and perhaps by two scores. I’d also like to point out that Notre Dame is very much a team that’s playing to the level of their opponent and could very well lose to Wake this weekend. So while I’m very happy with how we played against the #8 team last week, I’m not quite to the point of “delusional optimism” as ATVS would say.
The question I have at the moment is which Vanderbilt team shows up. Any of the teams that have shown up for the game so far will at least be in it, but we all know entirely too well what happens to us in this game. Finally, I’d like to point out I bought a ticket to this game, which inevitably dooms them.
It’s very hard to pick us against a 9-1 losing streak, and without us having a premier win yet. If we win, however, we’ve got full right to claim we’re #2 in the East.
The Pick: Carolina fails to cover, but wins on 90 yard FG set up by a bull turnover on downs the play before on a no-call PI. Carolina wins 24-23.
SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Listen, Aggie is getting vastly overlooked in their game against Bama this weekend. I refuse to believe the same team that took Clemson down to the wire will somehow be stomped by Bama. I know Bama is an unstoppable killing machine that’s hanging 70 on everyone right now, but I got a good feeling about this one. Gimme Aggie.
Andrew VU ‘04: I actually have a pretty good feeling about this one. As the Game Day sign we made back in ‘03 argued, I predict we will not suck; rather, we will beat the cocks.
Of course, I have to imagine you were all with me last week, as I yelled myself hoarse trying to get Ludwig to put Vaughn in on the last drive. I still contend that if we give Blasingame’s carries to Vaughn, we score on that drive, and win the game. I guess I don’t get it... every time I see Vaughn with the ball, I see a future NFL RB who can shake defenders out of their shoes. When I see our other runners, I see “just a guy.” Let Vaughn do what he was born to do, and we will end this damn near decade long streak of futility against the South Cackalacky Game Penises.
Please and thank you.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 24, South Carolina 20.
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: See above. Cocks beaten.
DoreonthePlains: Vanderbilt’s performances this season make me want to pick us to win. South Carolina’s big loss to Georgia makes me want to pick against them. The problem is that Georgia can make almost any team look very bad. Notre Dame also looked questionable against Ball State. The weirdness of college football, especially with SC not being able to play their game last week against Marshall, has me hesitating. I am going with my gut though. It has been pretty accurate so far.
Our offensive and defensive lines have been pretty effective so far, and I like our secondary. JoeJuan Williams will likely be tasked with shutting down either Deebo Samuels or Bryan Edwards on every play. The question will be how other DBs play on the other guy. The tackling needs to be smarter than it was last week, especially early in the game. Tarver is all about turnovers, but they cannot miss as many tackles due to trying to dislodge the ball. Likewise, the offense cannot miss fairly easy chances to score. Turnovers and FGs from inside the 10 will get you beat against good teams. Those woes will not continue though.
The Pick: Vanderbilt 28, South Carolina 20
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: Obviously, Vanderbilt is an underdog, and I want to put Bama on upset alert like VTPhD. I think that game goes much like the Clemson one, but Bama will win by two scores by not allowing a late comeback bid to flourish. If I have to take another upset, it would have to sadly be THEM over Florida in a pathetic cripple fight where there are no real winners because both teams suck.
just kidding. YES. I’m tired of hating on my own dang team. I know I’ve fudged up predictions in the past, but daggummit, Vanderbilt held their own against Notre Dame and I’m gonna go for it and say South Carolina just completely LOSES IT. They’re going to mess up and Vanderbilt will be ready for it.
I know we’ve had some hard times in the past rooting for Vanderbilt in SEC play, but that all changes today. (Tomorrow.)
The pick: Vanderbilt 23, South Carolina 17
The SEC Upset Pick of the Week: VANDY OVER SOUTH CAROLINA LET’S GOOOOOO