SEC football action on Saturday as Vanderbilt heads to Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Both teams enter this game at 3-0 SU—this was expected for South Carolina but something of a surprise for Vanderbilt. The Commodores are coming off of back to back victories over Connecticut and Ole Miss while the Gamecocks had a harder than expected time with Navy after their big win over Georgia.

VANDERBILT AT SOUTH CAROLINA SEPTEMBER 24, 2011 4:00 PM PACIFIC

By now its apparent that this South Carolina team has some brutally talented individual playmakers on both sides of the ball. It’s also apparent that the team has had issues at times playing as a cohesive unit. Furthermore, they’ve become a notoriously ‘slow starter’ in their games. Were it not for some monumental second half efforts they could have been 0-3 at this point. This tendency may come back to bite them against the upper echelons of the SEC but they can probably get away with it until then.

More specifically, they can get away with it from a SU standpoint but it makes the Gamecocks a very dicey pointspread investment. As I’ve noted on the EOG Sports Hour during the past couple of weeks, the Gamecocks haven’t been good at maintaining their intensity during a winning streak. Since 2009, they’re 2-6 ATS (and just 5-4 ATS) after two or more straight up wins. They were facing a ‘letdown situation’ against Navy last week having just come off that emotional win over Georgia and now they’re in something of a ‘lookahead spot’ with a double revenge game against Auburn on deck. The Auburn game has been ‘circled’ all year for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the embarrassing beating the Tigers but on South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game last year. It’s a game that the Gamecocks know they ‘need’ if they’re going to get back to the Georgia Dome this December.

South Carolina’s schedule was ‘backloaded’ with three back to back road games against tough competition in late October (Mississippi State, Tennessee, Arkansas) and the thinking has been that the team will be clicking on all cylinders by that point. They’ve got the talent to do so, but there are issues—in particular, quarterback Steven Garcia has been very erratic. He’s been bailed out by his talented supporting cast on both sides of the ball, but he sure doesn’t look like a championship level quarterback.

Vanderbilt has been a ‘tough out’ for South Carolina in recent years and the Commodores have won two of the last four meetings outright. They’re a classic opponent for a ‘letdown’ or ‘lookahead’ spot—a team that puts up a solid effort on most days but doesn’t provide any intrinsic motivation to drop a margin on them. They return their entire offense intact this year and have a highly underrated OL. They don’t have the same cohesion on the DL but return 8 starters to the stop unit. The Commodores problem in most years is the daunting level of competition in the SEC—they start strong but get worn down by the necessity of playing superior athletes week after week. If you catch the ‘dores early in the season, however, they can be a formidable opponent as evidenced by 6-2 ATS record in September since 2009.

The Gamecocks should have enough to get the outright win but as has been evidenced this season they’re not a team that dominates when they ‘step down in class’. With the huge game against Auburn on deck the ‘back door’ will always be open but the more likely scenario is that Vanderbilt will hang around all evening and ‘lose slowly’ (to paraphrase Irish Tim) providing an easy pointspread cover.

Bet Vanderbilt +16′ over South Carolina

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