GAME: Vanderbilt, 7 p.m., Saturday
SERIES: USC leads 18-4
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The Gamecocks won their fourth straight against the Commodores with a narrow 17-13 victory in the season opener in Nashville. Marcus Lattimore rushed for 110 yards and scored two touchdowns. His first touchdown, a run of 29 yards, opened the scoring, while his second touchdown, a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter, closed the scoring and allowed USC to escape with the win. Connor Shaw battled through a shoulder injury in the winning effort, while the defense held Vanderbilt to 276 total yards, with 78 of them coming on a long pass play in the second quarter for the Commodores’ only touchdown.
James Franklin. In his third season coaching the Commodores, Franklin has compiled a 16-12 record. Last season’s team won its final seven games to go 9-4, and it finished No. 23 in the AP final poll, a first for the program. He has guided the team to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history as well. Before Franklin joined the program, the school had made just four bowl appearances in 121 years.
Both teams are 0-1 at the bottom of the SEC East standings, which makes this game crucial for both in terms of the conference race to reach the title game. The Commodores, who lost to a close game to Ole Miss in the opening week, are coming off a 38-3 win over Austin Peay, while the Gamecocks dropped a shootout to Georgia on the road. With the continued improvement in the Franklin era, Vanderbilt is no longer a soft spot on any team’s schedule.
The Commodores last defeated the Gamecocks in the consecutive seasons of 2007 and 2008.
Vanderbilt is averaging 36.5 points and 434 yards per game in its first two games this season.
Wide receiver Jordan Matthews caught six passes for 112 yards in the first half of the rout of Austin Peay, which upped his career total to 12 games with at least 100 yards receiving and gave him a catch in 22 straight games.
Kicker Carey Spear made his first field goal of the year in the first quarter of the Austin Peay game with a 25-yard boot. The senior has made 11 of his last 12 field goal attempts dating back to last season.
COMMODORES TO WATCH:
... QB AUSTYN CARTA-SAMUELS: The 6-1, 215-pound senior has completed 35-of-58 passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns this season.
... WR JORDAN MATTHEWS: The 6-3, 206-pound senior, a consensus All-SEC player last season, has caught 16 passes for 289 yards for an 18.1-yard average and two touchdowns.
... CB ANDRE HAL: The 6-0, 185-pound senior, a second-team All-SEC player last season, leads the team with 11 tackles, three pass breakups and three pass deflections.
... PK CAREY SPEAR: The 5-10, 194-pound senior, another second-team All-SEC player last season, kicked a school-record 20-of-24 field goals a year ago, including all 15 inside 44 yards.
- Compiled by Neil White