When Eastern division rivals the Gamecocks of South Carolina and the Vanderbilt Commodores meet on Saturday, both sides will be looking for their first win of the season, and a bit of respect from the rest of the league. While the East is top-heavy with three unbeaten teams, the remaining four teams are all winless.
Many consider this a must-win for both teams and their embattled head coaches, both on the hot seat. While neither coach should be comfortable in their current situations, the flames are likely a little warmer for Carolina coach Will Muschamp.
A win for the Commodores would be a good thing, but the fanbase isn't really expecting it. On the other hand, should the Gamecocks lose a game their fans clearly expect to win, those flames will grow larger, and that might be enough to cost him the job in Columbia.
All this is, of course, speculation, but the importance of this contest for both teams cannot be overstated.
FIVE THINGS WE WANT TO SEE SATURDAY AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA
1) Ken Seals Takes The Next Step: Freshman quarterback Ken Seals has shown the ability to play at this level and has flashed enough to excited fans and onlookers about what the future might hold for him. Now's the time in a game his squad desperately needs to win for the young quarterback to come through with his best game.
Through two weeks, Seals as thrown four picks compared to two touchdowns. He doesn't have to throw for 400 yards and four touchdowns; he needs to eliminate the costly mistakes and take advantage of the opportunities that should be there against this defense.
2) Run Ja'veon Run: Ja'veon Marlowe has been the most productive weapon in the run game while Jamari Wakefield has been more of the power back to this point in the season. The tandem should also be bolstered by the expected return of Keon Henry-Brooks to the field this week, but it's Marlowe who needs to be special.
The Commodores were able to run the football efficiently last week against an LSU defense that should be better physically than the Gamecocks. So the Commodores need to make hay on the ground in this one. If they can run the ball and use that to control the clock, they can also limit Seals' potential to make a mistake and costly turnovers.
3) Impact The Quarterback: With all due respect to Collin Hill, he is the third-best quarterback that the Commodores will have faced this season. Through the first two games, the Commodores haven't gotten enough pressure on the opposing quarterbacks.
For the Commodores to win Saturday, they must find a way, whether individually or by blitzing, to force Hill to move and be uncomfortable in the pocket where he becomes the one making mistakes. Hill has just three touchdown passes and one interception but has been sacked eight times on the season.
The Commodores must get to the quarterback, or it will be a long day.
4) Defensive Line Return To Week One Form: The Commodores defensive front was the strength of the defense in week one, and while we have challenged them to impact the quarterback above, they also must step forward in stopping the run.
Last week versus LSU, the defensive backs made far too many tackles, and that's not a good thing.
5) Play Fast And Physical: The Gamecocksfeel they are the more physical team and will look to show it early. Vanderbilt must at least match, if not exceed, that level of physical play. Setting a tone early that they will not be pushed around or bullied will go a long way in this one.