South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt: Somebody’s Gonna Look Like a Real Winner Here
Gotta love Thursday night games for Week One. Gotta love (?) South Carolina and Vanderbilt football.
What’s great about this matchup is a trifecta of factors leading to one massive misconception. The factors at play:
- It’s Week One, so we really don’t know anything about these teams.
- Neither team is likely to be good but by comparison to other action (i.e. Appalachian State taking on Tennessee simultaneously) we assume both of these teams are “pretty good.”
- We just can’t wait for SEC on SEC violence.
Those things mold together to make this a “tone-setting statement game” for the winner. Make no mistake about it, as the only game of record for 2016, this will set the tone for both teams. It will be a very early tone, but a tone nonetheless. And, the winner will look better than the loser. But folks are going to read way too much into this game. That’s what happens when an opening night game just so happens to feature to foes from the nation’s best conference. But keep in mind who these teams were last year and what they’re going through this year.
Last year, South Carolina’s legendary coach quit in the middle of a 3-9 campaign. The team lost to all of its rivals (Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee) and won a lone conference game against (oh yeah….!!!) Vanderbilt. A new coaching staff is in place and the staff is led by a guy just one season removed from getting fired as the head coach at another SEC East program. In the interim he coordinated the defense for a team that needed overtime to defeat Jacksonville State and lost six games. South Carolina’s defense was consistently bad in 2015 and the offense (pretty mediocre in its own right) is without its leading rusher and leading receiver from a year ago.
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has continuity on the sideline but that may not be a good thing. Last year, Derek Mason went 4-8 overall and 2-6 in conference play. The year before that he went 3-9 overall and 0-8 in conference play. Vanderbilt could very well improve on his 1.0 Conference Wins Per Season average, but that may be a function of mathematical odds more so than competency.
Yes, there will be a better team in this matchup tonight. I think it will be South Carolina. But let’s not get our panties in a wad.
I like South Carolina with the upset on the road. Seriously, South Carolina +4 all day long. But that doesn’t mean South Carolina is better than expected or that Vanderbilt is worse.