South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC) at Vanderbilt (2-1, 0-0)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville
TV: SEC Network
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Line: South Carolina by 2 1.2
1. Under Coach Will Muschamp, South Carolina is 2-0 following a bye week, including a win over Vanderbilt last season. Of course, this latest open date wasn’t part of the plan, but Hurricane Florence washed out the Gamecocks’ Sept. 15 game with Marshall. Can the Gamecocks remain sharp in a crucial SEC East matchup?
2. Week 1 was a win over a team pegged to finish in the Sun Belt cellar. Week 2 was a loss to a team with eyes toward a return trip to the College Football Playoff. Games three and four of USC’s football season might give us a better feel for where these Gamecocks stand. After Vandy, Carolina heads to Kentucky. USC has yet to win consecutive road games in the Muschamp era.
3. After a 3-0 start last season, Vandy lost by 59 points to Alabama in Week 4, bringing the Commodores back down to Earth and foreshadowing their 1-7 SEC record. Vandy started this year 2-0 before playing a competitive four quarters in a narrow loss at No. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday. Is this Coach Derek Mason’s best team in his five years in Nashville? Or can USC bring the ‘Dores back down to Earth again?
Three Vanderbilt players to watch
1. Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur produced modest numbers (428 yards, four touchdowns) during Vandy’s 2-0 start, but it all came without a turnover. Faced with his biggest challenge of the season, Shurmur’s steady play continued against Notre Dame (26 of 43, 326 yards, TD, INT). The four-year starter is as experienced as any QB in the SEC.
2. Shurmur’s favorite target is Kalija Lipscomb. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior leads the SEC with 25 recepetions, including an 11-grab, 89-yard performance against the Fighting Irish. Carolina fans might recall Lipscomb going for seven catches, 128 yards and a score against the Gamecocks last season.
3. Vandy linebacker Charles Wright was ejected for targeting Jake Bentley in last season’s game. The SEC’s co-leader in sacks through the 2017 regular season is still looking for his first sack in ‘18. The Commodore defense is allowing just 12.7 points per game.