Saturday preview: Vanderbilt vs. South Carolina

Thursday, October 21, 2010 at 7:10pm

 VANDERBILT (2-4, 1-2) vs. No. 19 SOUTH CAROLINA (4-2, 2-2)

6:08 p.m. (CDT), Saturday

Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville

TV: Fox Sports Net (Comcast, Ch. 28); Radio: WRQQ-FM 97.1

About the Commodores:

• Prior to last week, they had held opposing receivers in check. Georgia receiver Kris Durham had 112 receiving yards in the Bulldogs’ 43-0 win on Saturday, but before that the defense had gone seven straight games without allowing a 100-yard receiver.

• They are familiar with Kenny Miles. The South Carolina running back rushed 18 times for 102 yards last year against Vanderbilt in the Gamecocks’ 14-10 victory.

• Their red zone defense ranks sixth in the SEC, with a 79.2 percentage (19-of-24). But the offense has just made 13 trips inside the 20-yard line, which is a league low. When they get in the red zone, they have scored 10 times, with seven touchdowns.

• It has been more than two years since they last won a SEC home game. They have lost six straight league contests at home, with their last victory coming on Oct. 4, 2008 against then-No. 13 Auburn.

About the Gamecocks:

• Sophomore wide receiver Alshon Jeffery leads the SEC and is fourth in the nation in receiving yards per game (115.0). The 6-foot-4, 233-pound Jeffery averages a league-best 6.7 receptions a game and has four 100-yard receiving games this season.

• Coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that sophomore Kenny Miles would get the start at running back. The team’s leading rusher, Marcus Lattimore, sprained his ankle in last week’s loss to Kentucky. The freshman running back has 752 total yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

• They lead the SEC in both red zone offense and red zone defense. They have scored on 21 of 23 possessions, including 19 touchdowns, for a 91.3 percentage – 13th highest in the nation. On the other hand, their opponents have scored just 16 of 24 times inside the 20 with only eight touchdowns. The 66.7 percentage ranks ninth in the nation.

• It has been more than two years since they last won a SEC road game. They have lost seven straight league contests away from home, with their last win coming on Oct. 11, 2008 at Kentucky.

Something to consider:

First place in the SEC East is on the line. South Carolina and Vanderbilt are the only two teams in the division with just two conference losses. Each, along with Kentucky, is still looking for its first SEC East championship. Only Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have won the East divisional crown.

• The last time Vanderbilt was shut out in back-to-back games was during the 1971 season. Before last week’s 43-0 loss to Georgia, the Commodores had scored in 76 straight. They had last been held scoreless in 2003 in a 48-0 loss to Tennessee.

• Caldwell and South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman know each other well. Both Caldwell – a native of Pageland, S.C. – and Hyman were assistants on the Furman coaching staff in the late 1970s to early 1980s.

Prediction:

Both teams will be looking to erase the memories of tough road losses last week.

While Vanderbilt has improved from last year, the offense is still a work in progress. That was evident against Georgia – not just in the scoreless outing but in the fact that the Commodores lost the time of possession battle, 37:15-22:45.

Vanderbilt’s defense has been stingy in recent years but being on the field that long will wear down most units, especially when they are matched up against the sort of offensive playmakers Georgia has.

South Carolina also poses big, physical threats on both sides of the ball. Jeffery will be tough to contain and even without Lattimore, Miles seems to be a solid replacement.

Defensively, the Gamecocks lead the SEC with 22 sacks. South Carolina might have the edge up front again this week as Vanderbilt will most likely be without senior center Joey Bailey (ankle). True freshmen Logan Stewart and James Kittredge both have practiced at the position this week.

The Commodores are a strong first-half team but seem to slow down after halftime, especially in the fourth quarter where they have averaged just 3.3 points a game this year. Vanderbilt might battle tough early but South Carolina shouldn’t have any problems pulling away late.

South Carolina 35, Vanderbilt 14