COLUMIBA – There’s a blue, almost cloudless sky over Williams-Brice Stadium, and shadows are starting to creep across the field.
With the sun setting in Columbia, a 7 p.m. kickoff between No. 13 South Carolina and Vanderbilt is getting closer. Players from both teams are going through pregame warmups, getting ready for tonight’s game.
It should be an excellent atmosphere this evening for a game that will be televised on ESPN. USC announced its second sellout in as many games this fall. Many of the 80,250 fans expected to pack the stadium are still loitering in tailgate lots.
For the Gamecocks (1-1), a win against Vanderbilt (1-1) would help them officially move past the disappointment of last weekend’s loss at No. 9 Georgia. The season is not over, far from it, even if USC needs help to make it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
First, the Gamecocks must take care of the things they can control.
It starts by beating a Commodore team much improved in recent seasons under coach James Franklin. Vandy won is coming off a 9-4 record – its best season since 1915 – and a bowl victory in 2012. Still, a gap exists between where Franklin wants to take his program and the position it currently sits.
The Commodores enter this evening with a 14-game losing streak against ranked opponents. They badly want to beat one of the SEC’s top three teams this fall. This is their first chance, with games against Florida and Georgia coming later this season.
Vanderbilt expects a breakthrough in 2013. Beating USC could be a springboard. The Gamecocks want to make sure that doesn’t happen.