The South Carolina Gamecocks came through with a 35-25 win over Vanderbilt Saturday, scoring on their first four possessions of the game. The Gamecock defense displayed absolute heart after Georgia compiled 536 yards the week before. Vanderbilt could only muster 268 total yards and just two of 12 third-down conversions. USC has won five straight in the series, after scoring the first 28 points on Saturday. The astounding 13 straight wins at home at Williams-Brice sends South Carolina to a record of 2-1, with an off week awaiting before a road trip to UCF follows on Sept.28.
South Carolina is ranked No. 12 in this week’s Associated Press poll and No. 13 in the USA Today poll. UCF had the biggest win in program history at Penn State 34-31 in Week 3. The win has allowed for UCF to start a season 3-0 for the first time since 1988. The scary part of this matchup for UCF, however, is knowing that with a bye week like Carolina, their kids could possibly turn this game into a hangover.
UCF went 10-4 last season; all losses came by an average of seven points and they received their second consecutive bowl win, 38-17 against Ball State in the St. Petersburg Bowl. For glimpses of the Ohio State game last season, the Knights looked like they would be able to get their first Big Ten win, playing to a 31-16 close loss, yet everybody played the Buckeyes close in the horseshoe. UCF faced two leads at home on Missouri in the first quarter last season. The biggest win in school history came last week; think how big of a win South Carolina would be for the program, which is already the biggest game in UCF’s history and Bright House Networks Stadium. Carolina has won all three previous meetings with the Knights, all played at home.
This time off comes at an ideal and opportune time, in various capacities, for South Carolina. Carolina needs to get players dealing with injuries back on track. Jadeveon Clowney has been ailing from bone spurs in his foot that started back in high school, and plans to have surgery on it after the continuation of his junior season. Clowney hasn’t been much of a factor, with 10 total tackles and two sacks through three games this year. USC gets valuable time to begin to regroup to stop the run better on defense and improve their turnover margin, which is -1 ranking 87th with four others in the nation. Carolina swung the game open for Vanderbilt with three turnovers; the two that came in the second half on special teams were downright ugly, as Shon Carson fumbled a kickoff return and a punt directed at Bruce Ellington, hit T.J. Gurley when he was blocking, and Vanderbilt recovered.
The Gamecocks can simply rest after playing one of the most underrated and tough first three weeks in the country. USC will get to prepare extensively for the UCF offense, knowing they have a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. After going to Orlando, the team will play a home game with Kentucky, play on the road three straight weeks (Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri), with an additional two weeks to prepare for a Florida team that had just played both Georgia and Vanderbilt in back-to-back weeks.
If South Carolina beats UCF, they can rest assure for the time being. Well, until their in-state rival Clemson treats them to an after Thanksgiving stuffing.