South Carolina football: Gamecock set for road matchup vs Vanderbilt

Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20). Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 26, 2020; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20). Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
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South Carolina receiver Shi Smith (13). Mandatory Credit: Brad McClenny-USA TODAY NETWORK /


Avoid costly turnovers

In both the Tennessee and Florida games, the Gamecock offense provided opposing defenses with game-changing takeaways. In week one, it was a pass that went through the hands of star receiver Shi Smith, which was ultimately picked off and returned for a Tennessee touchdown.

That was followed by a muffed punt in the fourth quarter that ended South Carolina’s hopes of capping off a comeback. The Gamecocks lost the game by four points.

And last week, South Carolina running back Deshaun Fenwick let a pitch slip through his fingertips, resulting in a Gator recovery in Gamecock territory. Florida scored a few plays later, turning what could’ve been a chance to cut the Gator lead to just three into a 17-point second half deficit.

The Gamecocks have to avoid these self-inflicted blunders if they want to win moving forward.

Find another option in the passing game

Shi Smith has been the only reliable target in the Gamecock wide receiver rotation, tallying 22 catches over the season’s first two weeks. The rest of the South Carolina wideouts, combined, have caught just eight passes.

The Gamecocks desperately need for another receiver to step up and take the pressure off of Smith. We assumed that would be Xavier Legette last week, after hauling in four receptions in week one, but a first half injury caused him to miss the majority of the game.

Look for freshman Rico Powers to get more involved this week as the Gamecocks look for an offensive spark.

Limit explosive plays

The Gamecocks have been plagued by the big play on defense. Tennessee was able to connect on three passes of 30 or more yards in week one, while adding a few big gainers on the ground, too. Last week was more of the same, as Kyle Trask and the Florida offense created big plays through the air on their way to a 38-point performance.

Vanderbilt ranks dead last in the SEC, averaging 3.9 yards per play. The Gamecocks need to keep the Commodore offense bottled up and avoid allowing a struggling offense to break off chunk plays.

Clean up the return game

South Carolina’s return game has been worse than non-existent. Over the first two games, the punt and kick teams have recorded two returns for a total of -1 yards and a turnover.

Shi Smith has not attempted to return a kick thus far this season, despite having opportunities to field a few short boots by Gator kickers last week. His only return on record this season is one that he attempted to fair catch, but muffed and recovered for no gain. That set the Gamecocks up with starting field position inside their own five yard line.

The punt game has been even worse, with its only return being on a ball that rolled up the leg of a Carolina blocker, resulting in a fumble and Tennessee recovery. The turnover ended the Gamecocks’ chances to mount a go-ahead touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.

Last year, South Carolina ranked near the top of the league in return yardage. They need to get back to that production moving forward.

Force young QB into mistakes

South Carolina has forced two turnovers through two games this season, both of which came against an experienced passer in Kyle Trask last week. The Gamecocks need to continue that output against freshman quarterback Ken Seals this week.

Seals has shown promise in his first two career games, but he’s also been prone to the untimely interception. He’s thrown four picks thus far, with three coming while the Commodores were in the redzone.

South Carolina needs to apply pressure to the young signal caller and force him into poor decisions on Saturday.


Vanderbilt DL v. South Carolina OL

Vanderbilt has two experienced pass rushers in ends Dayo Odeyingbo and Andre Mintz. The Gamecock offensive line has struggled to protect Collin Hill, as the signal caller’s been sacked eight times through two games.

If the Gamecocks are unable to keep their quarterback upright, it could result in a field day for the Vanderbilt defense, who’s returning a couple of key defenders in its secondary.

Vanderbilt Passing Attack v. South Carolina Pass Defense

Vanderbilt’s passing offense has been subpar, averaging just 131.5 yards a game. The South Carolina pass defense has given up 250+ yards to both opposing quarterbacks it’s faced and is allowing 8.7 yards a pass. That ranks 10th in the SEC.

It will be a battle of two of the worst performers so far this season.

That’s not to say there’s not talent. Ken Seals has thrown some impressive touchdown passes through his first two games for the Commodores. Jaycee Horn, Jammie Robinson, and Israel Mukuamu each have all-conference potential for the Gamecocks. For whatever reason, the results haven’t panned out quite yet.

Keep an eye on this matchup as the game progresses on Saturday.


JJ Enagbare

Enagbare leads the team with two sacks and has been a force off the edge for the Gamecock defense. He’ll be matched up with a Vanderbilt offensive line that’s surrendered five sacks on the year. Look for him to have a big day, and stay atop the leaderboard in quarterback takedowns.


Look for the Gamecock offense to remain productive and for the defense to finally play to its potential against an overmatched Vanderbilt offensive unit. South Carolina should be able to continue its production in the run game and control the game from start to finish.

The Gamecocks will make it 12 in a row over their SEC Eastern division opponent.

850. 14. 887. Prediction. 28