South Carolina Football: How to watch, storylines, expert picks, and predictions vs. Vanderbilt

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer approaching Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea for a handshake after the Gamecocks beat the Commodores in 2022. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer approaching Vanderbilt head coach Clark Lea for a handshake after the Gamecocks beat the Commodores in 2022. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

It won’t come as a surprise to many in the SEC world that the longest active win-loss streak in the SEC features Vanderbilt as the losing team. It may come as a surprise, though, that the longest active win-loss streak features South Carolina football as the winning team.

The Gamecocks are looking for their 15th victory in a row in the series and their first two-game win streak of the 2023 season. The Gamecocks will be moderately heavy favorites to win the home contest, and USC needs the win in order to reach traditional bowl eligibility.

Clark Lea and Shane Beamer both became SEC head coaches after the 2020 season, and the two third-year headmen will battle to stay out of the SEC East cellar. Vanderbilt has yet to win a game in the SEC, while South Carolina’s only victory in the conference came at home against Mississippi State.

South Carolina Football vs. Vanderbilt:
How to watch

South Carolina football will play its third-straight nooner on Saturday as the Gamecocks and Commodores will kick off at 12:00. SECNetwork and the ESPN app will broadcast the game. Taylor Zarzour (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (color commentary/analysis), and Taylor Davis (sideline reporting) will be on the call.

South Carolina Football vs. Vanderbilt:
Storylines to watch

There will be far too many references on Saturday to the bad records that will be featured in this game. The 2-8 Vanderbilt Commodores have lost 8-straight games and are 0-6 in the SEC in 2023. South Carolina is 3-6 (1-5 in the SEC) and is coming off of an ugly win over Jacksonville State that will also be a talking point during the broadcast.

A major storyline that will be touched on during the broadcast will be South Carolina football’s pursuit of bowl eligibility. While there typically are a few 5-7 teams that receive bowl invites, in order for the Gamecocks to ensure a bowl game for the program, they must win their final three games over Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Clemson (all at home).

Vanderbilt has undergone a quarterback change this season. Starter AJ Swann struggled, then got hurt, and he has not resumed his duties as the starter since Ken Seals took over several weeks ago.

The last time these two teams played at Williams-Brice Stadium, the game featured two unlikely comebacks. After storming out to a 14-3 lead, the Gamecocks gave up 17 straight points to the ‘Dores, and Shane Beamer turned to grad assistant-turned-quarterback Zeb Noland to save the day off the bench. Noland led a touchdown drive in the closing seconds to win the game.

The Gamecocks have dealt with an obscene amount of injuries his season, especially on the offensive line and in the wide receiver room.

This week, the Gamecocks are expecting to be without linemen Jaylen Nichols, Ryan Brubaker, Markee Anderson, and Trai Jones. Jakai Moore, Tree Babalade, Vershon Lee, and Tro Baugh are banged up but expected to be available. Wide receiver Juice Wells will be out, but Ahmarean Brown and Xavier Legette will play after playing hurt the past couple of weeks.

Running back DK Joyner is not expected to play in the game, either. Tight end Trey Knox missed last week’s game but is expected to be available on Saturday. Knox is dealing with a hamstring issue, while Joyner injured his ankle last week.

Some nasty weather is possible tomorrow. If the rain on the forecast comes through Columbia, two pass-heavy offenses will have to figure out how to deal with difficult-to-grip footballs.

South Carolina Football vs. Vanderbilt:
What experts are saying

The spread for Carolina-Vandy is not small, but it is the smallest it has been at Williams-Brice Stadium since 2017.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Carolina an 84.5% chance to earn a victory in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

The college football team at FoxSports picked South Carolina to win the game but chose the ‘Dores to cover the spread.

The Greenville News’ Emily Adams picked South Carolina football to win but not to cover the spread.

South Carolina Football vs. Vanderbilt:
Official Garnet and Cocky prediction

Saturday’s game, as apparent by the point spread, should end in a South Carolina victory, but given the Gamecocks’ struggles in 2023, anything could happen.

A virtual carbon copy of Vanderbilt’s loss to Wake Forest earlier in the season could be the outcome this Saturday. In that contest, both teams moved the ball almost at will against the opposing defenses, but Vanderbilt’s turnovers doomed them to a two-score loss. South Carolina football has not forced many turnovers this season, but they forced three in the second half last week, potentially setting them up for more this week against a turnover-happy Vandy offense.

Vanderbilt has struggled to defend the run this season, but their linebackers are the best players on the defense. South Carolina has struggled to block in the run game, especially at the second level, so fans shouldn’t expect much out of the Carolina run game unless they figure out a way to block those linebackers when they come up in run support.

Where the Gamecocks should have tremendous success on Saturday is through the air. Vanderbilt’s pass defense has been almost as bad as South Carolina’s this season despite the Commodores playing a much weaker schedule. Spencer Rattler and Xavier Legette could have a big Saturday afternoon, and players like Josh Simon, Nyck Harbor, and Ahmarean Brown could be big factors, as well.

Vanderbilt does not have a very good offense, either, but the Gamecocks have given up about 430 yards of offense per game this year. Vandy will be able to move the ball against Clayton White’s porous defense.

Receivers Jayden McGowan, Will Sheppard, and London Humphreys will test the Carolina secondary. If White continues to put his guys in man coverage situations, the speed of the Vandy pass catchers could lead to quick points for the Commodores.

Momentum-shifting plays and turnover-inducing plays will be the key to this game. The turnover battle and the comparison between each team’s tackles for loss and sacks will be a major decider in this one as neither team’s defense is good enough to stop the other’s offense without those types of game-changing plays.

The most likely outcome on Saturday is one that sees another ugly Gamecock win. The Gamecocks are much more talented than the Commodores, but the injury issues and struggles to limit big plays will allow Vanderbilt to compete somewhat on the scoreboard. In the end, the talent difference will shine through but not without the typical stress that comes with watching South Carolina football play.

Prediction. 24. 887. 38. 850

The game probably won’t make Gamecock fans very happy, but the 2023 version of this team just needs to stack up wins where they can get them. Step two of four on the way to bowl eligibility should be one that Carolina can handle, even if their legs look a bit shaky in doing so.

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