For the first time since 2006, Vanderbilt will open the season against a nationally ranked program.
South Carolina is ninth in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll, which was released Thursday. The Commodores host the Gamecocks on Thursday, Aug. 30, in front of a primetime national TV audience on ESPN.
The Associated Press has not released its preseason poll yet, but the last time Vanderbilt defeated a top 10 opponent at home was in 1974 against Florida.
“This team has nothing to do with what took place 30 years ago,” coach James Franklin said at a press conference on Thursday to kick off preseason camp. “… We’re just focused on playing that game, not anything based on history, not their ranking. I think that’s awesome but our focus is beating the team that lines up across from us on Aug. 30.”
South Carolina has won the last three games against Vanderbilt, including 21-3 in Columbia last year. The Gamecocks return 13 starters from a 2011 team that set a school record with 11 wins and beat Nebraska in the Capitol One Bowl. Vanderbilt’s last win against a ranked opponent was in 2008 over No. 13 Auburn.
“My approach is I’m going to be really, really nice about South Carolina and talking about [coach] Steve Spurrier because you don’t want to get him on your bad side,” Franklin said. “He is one of those guys that can say whatever he wants. You want to stay on Steve’s good side. But they’ve got a great team and he is a great coach and has done tremendous things.”
LSU topped the coaches rankings, with defending national champ Alabama second. Georgia (sixth) and Arkansas (10th) also cracked the top 10. The SEC had seven teams in the top 25, including 2012 Vanderbilt opponents Florida (23rd) and Auburn (25th). In fact, only three SEC teams did not receive votes — Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Ole Miss.
“Because we did some good things and laid the foundation, to think all of a sudden everybody across the country and this region are going to respect us for what we did, that’s not going to happen,” said Franklin, who is one of 59 coaches with a vote. “You got to wake up every single morning and you got to earn that respect … . The perception is not going to change overnight and I’m perfectly fine with that.”