NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Do not count coach Derek Mason as one who was satisfied with Vanderbilt's near-upset last week at Notre Dame, and he made clear his team’s purpose entering Saturday’s SEC opener against visiting South Carolina. The Commodores, who seek to win their conference opener for the first time since 2011, dropped a 22-17 decision to the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish after rallying from a 13-point, second-quarter deficit.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, SEC Network. LINE: South Carolina -2
“If people feel good about that, great. We don’t,” Mason told reporters on Tuesday - three days after admitting his team missed critical opportunities. “We play the game to win.” South Carolina looks forward to just playing after its home game against Marshall last week was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, as its last contest was a 41-17 loss to No. 3 Georgia on Sept. 8. “Gave our coaches a chance to start working on Vanderbilt,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp told reporters on Tuesday. “I thought we had a very good practice Sunday and working into today.” Saturday's matchup features two of the better quarterbacks in the SEC in Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur (754 yards, five touchdowns in three games) and South Carolina’s Jake Bentley (five touchdowns, 52 completions in two contests).
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (1-1, 0-1 SEC)
One key to Saturday's contest will be the Gamecocks' rushing attack, which produced only 54 yards on 20 carries in the loss to Georgia. Wide receiver Deebo Samuel has shown he is healthy so far, recording a team-high 13 receptions, while Bryan Edwards leads South Carolina in receiving yards (164) and touchdown catches (three). Linebacker T.J. Brunson has made 10 solo tackles and 11 stops overall.
ABOUT VANDERBILT (2-1)
Shurmur ripped the Fighting Irish for 326 yards and a touchdown last week, moving into third place on the school’s all-time passing list with 6,489 yards. Tight end Jared Pinkney (241 yards on 12 receptions) and wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb (league-high 25 catches for 234 yards) have emerged as top targets. Linebacker Josh Smith is tied for second in the conference with 15 solo tackles and has made 21 total stops.
1. Vanderbilt has not beaten South Carolina since posting back-to-back victories in 2007 and 2008.
2. Bentley set a career high with 47 pass attempts against Georgia, tying for ninth-most in school history.
3. The Commodores struggled establishing the run against Notre Dame, rushing for just 27 yards in the first half and 94 overall.
PREDICTION: Vanderbilt 31, South Carolina 27