NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt heads to hostile territory Saturday to play South Carolina.
The Commodores (2-5, 1-3 SEC) were off last weekend, but before that they upended Missouri 21-14 in Nashville, a victory which snapped a two-game losing streak.
South Carolina (3-5, 2-4 SEC) was beaten 41-21 at Tennessee last time out. The Gamecocks have won 10 in a row against Vandy and the Dores have not won at South Carolina since 2007.
Here is more on how to tune in to Saturday’s contest as well as five key matchups to watch at Williams-Brice Stadium:
When: 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday
Location: Williams-Brice Stadium
Television: SEC Network
Broadcast Crew: Tom Hart (play-by-play), Jordan Rodgers (analyst), Cole Cubelic (sideline)
Streaming: Available via the WatchESPN app
Radio: Vanderbilt radio network WLAC AM 1510 Nashville; SiriusXM channel 381 and streaming channel 970
Weather: 65 degrees at kickoff, sunny, 10 percent chance of rain
1. SHOW ME 200
The Vandy offense has its work cut out for it Saturday against a stout South Carolina rush defense. But there’s a number for the Commodores to circle that may better their chances at victory.
Under head coach Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks are 3-13 when the opponent rushes for 200 yards or more – something that has already happened once in 2019. An improving Vanderbilt offensive line coupled with a fresh Ke’Shawn Vaughn coming off a bye week could allow the Commodores to certainly give it their best shot to reach that mark.
Vandy has yet to rush for 200 yards in a single game this season, but did so four times in 2018.
2. BALL SECURITY
The Commodores have done an extremely good job of taking care of the football this season. That will be tested against the Gamecocks.
South Carolina has 13 takeaways in eight games – four of those came in a win at Georgia.
Vandy has only lost two fumbles all season and has only thrown five interceptions. Those seven total giveaways are the fifth-fewest among teams in the FBS.
Playing mistake-free football on the road during a crucial conference game will be key if the Commodores have any hope of winning Saturday.
3. WHO BE THE QB?
The last time Vanderbilt took the field it turned to Mo Hasan at quarterback. Things went swimmingly from there as the Commodores rallied to beat Missouri 21-14.
In that victory, however, Hasan left with an injury and backup Riley Neal (the team’s opening-day starter) came in to throw the game-winning touchdown. Hasan, Neal and Deuce Wallace have all completed at least seven passes this season. Any one of that trio could play Saturday with Hasan still questionable due to injury.
Whomever gets the majority of snaps behind center against the Gamecocks will need to be at the top of his game against an aggressive South Carolina pass rush.
4. DISARMING GAMECOCK WEAPONS
South Carolina has struggled in the passing game this season, but that doesn’t mean the Gamecocks aren’t without weapons in that part of the offense.
Freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski has thrown for more than 1,500 yards and has a pair of wideouts in Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith who have each totaled more than 400 yards receiving.
To compliment the aerial attack the Gamecocks also have a trio of running backs in Tavien Feaster, Rico Dowdle and Mon Denson to rely on (although Dowdle is out Saturday due to injury). Vandy’s defense, which played its best game of the season last time out, will have to bring it again in the trenches.
5. THIRD DOWN MONEY DOWN
Saturday’s matchup will feature two teams really struggling to stay on the field faced with a third-down call.
Vanderbilt ranks 127th nationally by converting just 28.7 percent of the time on third down. South Carolina hasn’t fared much better with a mark of 32.2 percent – 118th among FBS programs.
The Commodores haven’t had more than six third-down conversions in any one game this season while the Gamecocks have been held to seven or less in the last five games.
Which team will be able to sustain drives? That squad may be in a great position to secure victory Saturday night.