When the South Carolina Gamecocks visit Vanderbilt Stadium Saturday morning, there will be a lot riding on this game for both teams. Currently 0-2, both squads are desperate for a win that would be their first of the season. Neither can afford to fall to 0-3 as they fight to find a place in the middle of the SEC East standings.
Simultaneously, both head coaches, Carolina's Will Muschamp and Vanderbilt's Derek Mason, are residing squarely on the hot seat to retain their jobs.
However, in this COVID-19 era, it is uncertain either would be fired regardless of how poorly their season goes. Either way, this is an important game for both coaches and their teams.
What are the three key matchups we suspect will play prominent roles in the outcome Saturday?
THREE KEY MATCHUPS
1) Ted Roof vs. Mike Bobo: Yes, I know these two will never line up opposite each other and play a down; however, this matchup will play a massive role in deciding this one.
Roof, in his first season as the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, has the strength of this football team on his side of the ball. Winning and losing this game will fall on his and his defensive unit's shoulders.
Of course, the other phases will have to play well, but if the Commodores defense can play to the level we witnessed in week one, this is a winnable game for the Commodores.
2) Allan George vs. Shi Smith: Smith is the No.1 wideout option for the Gamecocks. He has accounted for 22 of their 53 total receptions and 225 of their 502 passing yards through the first two games. Smith has two of the three passing touchdowns thrown by quarterback Collin Hill.
To say he is the team's best receiver and Hill's favorite target might be an understatement at this point.
How well George, who is likely to draw Smith most of the game, can shut down his production will be critical.
3) Vanderbilt O-Line vs. Carolina D-Line: This might be the broadest category of the bunch, and a case could be made that it should be higher up this list. Muschamp's front four are the heart and soul of this defense, and they are the ones who get after the quarterback.
Kingsley Enagbare leads the defensive front with two sacks, while Keir Thomas has one with Aaron Sterling and Jabari Ellis, each being credited with 0.5 sacks each. That foursome is also responsible for the majority of their quarterback hurries.
The Commodores line, lead by Tyler Steen, struggled last week versus LSU, and while this defensive front is a solid unit, they are far from that of the Tigers. It's vital for the Commodore's success that their line protects their freshman quarterback Ken Seals, and make room for Ja'veon Marlowe and Jamari Wakefiled to run the football.
Vanderbilt held a slight advantage in time of possession last week, but it was in large part because LSU scored so quickly on more than one possession. The Commodores need to win this stat again but will have to produce more offense yardage to do it.