South Carolina (0-0) at Vanderbilt (0-0)
When: Thursday, September 1st 2016
Where: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, TN
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Will Muschamp takes over a rebuilding South Carolina team in hopes of having more success on the road in order to compete in the power SEC. Their first test is Thursday in Nashville when they take on the Vanderbilt Commodores. Muschamp spent four seasons with the Florida Gators but was dismissed right after a home loss to his new team – South Carolina. The Gamecocks have lost eight of their last nine road games overall, but they’ve been victorious in their last three trips to Vanderbilt and seven of the last eight. South Carolina brings to the season an inexperienced offensive line and uncertainty at quarterback. Three players still have a chance to see time under center, but freshman Brandon McIlwain has the most potential of the group. Running back David Williams is the team’s top returning rusher (299 yards in 2015) at his position but is behind redshirt freshman A.J. Turner (Clifton, VA) on the depth chart.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason will be in his third season as Commodores coach and should have an even better defense than he did last year. Vandy ranked 22nd in the country in scoring defense (21.0) and returns seven key starters – all juniors and seniors – on that side of the ball. The big question is whether or not the Commodores can score enough to win games and get back to their first Bowl game since 2013. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur has won the job after starting five of the final six games last season and throwing for 503 yards with five touchdowns and three interceptions. The return of receiver C.J. Duncan after missing last season due to injury, gives Vandy a solid receiving corps to complement running back Ralph Webb (1,152 rushing yards, 5 TDs last season). Vandy was 123rd in scoring last season (15.2) and 109th in turnover margin.
This game opened up at Vandy -2 a few months ago and the sharps jumped on it right away. The public is about 50/50 on this game, but I believe Vanderbilt is the play here. Their defense is very solid and is going up against a South Carolina offense that was a complete mess last year. Vandy’s offense is improved enough to get the win and cover here.
Pick: Vanderbilt -4