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Gameday preview: USC vs. Vanderbilt

South Carolina freshman tailback No. 31 Kenny Miles breaks free for a long run in the third quarter during the Gamecocks game against Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium, Saturday 10, 2009.
South Carolina freshman tailback No. 31 Kenny Miles breaks free for a long run in the third quarter during the Gamecocks game against Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium, Saturday 10, 2009.

Injury report, five game storylines, five questions Darian Stewart and more.

Injuries

USC - WR Moe Brown (concussion), WR Dion LeCorn (leg) and OL Terrence Campbell (neck) are out; LS Charles Turner (concussion) is questionable; TE Weslye Saunders (ankle) and DE Byron McKnight (concussion) are probable.

Vandy - TE Austin Monahan (knee) and DE Theron Kadri (ankle) are out; OT Thomas Welch (ankle) is questionable; RB Zac Stacy (ankle) and RB Jared Hawkins (foot) are probable.

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Five Storylines

Third time a charm?

Steve Spurrier says there has been nothing fluky about his first two losses to Vandy, which "outplayed and outcoached" the Gamecocks the past two meetings. USC is nearly a two-touchdown favorite, but must minimize the turnovers and sacks that plagued the Gamecocks the past two years.

Welcome home

Homecoming festivities include pregame salutes to USC's 1969 and 1984 teams. The '69 squad won the ACC championship that remains the school's lone league title. It's also homecoming for Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson, a Columbia native who sold Cokes at Williams-Brice Stadium as a child.

No passing fancy

Vanderbilt and USC rank in the top five nationally in pass defense. The Commodores have allowed 133.6 passing yards per game to rank third; USC is fifth at 142.6. The Gamecocks' secondary receives a boost with the return of cornerback Akeem Auguste, who was suspended for the past three games.

Points at a premium

A year after going 4-4 in the SEC and earning its first bowl berth since 1982, Vandy looks like the Vandy of old. The Commodores lost to Army and have averaged a touchdown per game in their conference games. QB Larry Smith is completing 46 percent of his passes and has twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.

Home, sweet home

USC has won six consecutive games at Williams-Brice Stadium, dating to last year's Tennessee game. A win Saturday would be the Gamecocks' fifth consecutive SEC home victory, which would establish a school record. If USC scores three touchdowns, it should be in good shape: The Gamecocks are 13-0 vs. Vandy when scoring at least 20 points.

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Game Within the Game

USC tailback Kenny Miles vs. Vandy LB Chris Marve

About Miles: The redshirt freshman is coming off a tough game at Alabama, where he found few running lanes and finished with 40 yards on 15 carries. But Miles remains the Gamecocks' leading rusher with 308 yards on 60 carries for a 5.1-yard average. The 5-9, 183-pounder is expected to make his fourth consecutive start Saturday.

How he'll win: Miles might not be as powerful as USC junior tailback Brian Maddox or as fast as freshman Jarvis Giles. But he runs hard, hits the hole fast and does a good job protecting the ball. Besides trying to elude Marve on running plays, Miles could be responsible for blocking him when the Commodores blitz. If Miles struggles, Steve Spurrier will not hesitate to use Maddox for blitz pickup.

Key number: 2; 100-yard rushing games by USC backs this season - Jarvis Giles (113 vs. Florida Atlantic) and Miles (100 vs. Kentucky).

About Marve: The redshirt sophomore from Memphis made the SEC's All-Freshman team last fall when he started 13 games at middle linebacker and finished with 105 tackles. The 6-foot, 228-pound Marve teams with senior Patrick Benoist to give the Commodores' a solid linebacking tandem.

How he'll win: Marve, who has been bothered by a sore shoulder, is a sure tackler who has a nose for the ball. After leading the SEC with four forced fumbles in 2008, Marve is the conference leader in that category this season with three. He is second in the SEC behind Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran in tackles with 9.3 a game. If the USC guards and center don't hold their blocks, Marve will get to Miles before he reaches the open field.

Key number: 16, Marve's career high in tackles, set last year in a 10-7 loss to Duke.

Five Questions Darian Stewart

Strong safety/No. 24/Huntsville, Ala.

The senior, who briefly weighed his NFL options near the end of last season, is fourth on the team with 33 tackles.

Was it special last week playing in your home state?

It was wonderful. It was great. Just the experience of playing back in my home state, just playing in front of some of my family and friends, it was a good experience. I enjoyed it.

How many people did you have in the stands?

Twenty-seven, not including some of my friends. Twenty-seven people. I was on the prowl for (tickets), asking all my teammates if I could get 'em.

I've described you as a player who's not necessarily a ball hawk, but you make tackles. How would you describe yourself?

Just hungry. Anything to make a play or win, I'm pretty much willing to do whatever it takes.

What would you like your legacy to be here after you leave?

A player that every time he approaches the game, he's all out at all times. And just a hard hitter.

Are you glad you came back for your senior year? Are you accomplishing what you hoped to accomplish?

I'm very glad I came back. Just playing in front of this crowd, it's wonderful. It a wonderful experience. And you only go through college one time. I've not yet accomplished what I wanted to, but it's getting there.

Person's pick: USC 31, Vandy 13

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