South Carolina-Vanderbilt Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated August 27, 2012
Alabama-south-carolina
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has successfully handled high expectations for most of his college career. He knows his ninth-ranked Gamecocks will have to quickly learn the same lesson. Excitement among South Carolina fans is at an all-time high after last season's 11-2 season, the most victories the program's ever produced. To achieve their goals in the Southeastern Conference, the Gamecocks have to stay focused. That trek starts Thursday night when South Carolina opens the season at Vanderbilt. Spurrier hasn't spoken much with his players about following up on success, although the Gamecocks would have to live in a plastic bubble not to feel the fan frenzy throughout the state. The Gamecocks were picked in the preseason top 10 for the first time, the school announced a record membership for its athletic booster group and talk of SEC titles and more fills local airwaves. For Spurrier, all the hoopla is nothing new. He faced similarly grand expectations each of his 12 seasons at Florida, where he won six SEC titles and the 1996 national championship. He says the Gamecocks haven't backed away from achieving bigger things. ''Every team each year sort of sets their goals and we've set our goals, very similar to last year,'' Spurrier said. ''We're going to see if we can achieve our goals and hopefully do a little better than last year.'' And that means starting quickly against the Commodores, who have lost their past three to South Carolina but are treating this one as more than a simple starting point. ''This is the only thing that exists,'' Vanderbilt coach James Franklin said. ''This is our Super Bowl. No other game exists.'' Spurrier wants that focus out of his players, too, and tries to keep South Carolina from peeking down its schedule. That in part has led to the team's surge the past couple of seasons when the Gamecocks' head ball coach appeared to be banging his head against a ceiling that would never break to some of the program's biggest achievements. The Gamecocks won their first SEC Eastern Division title in 2010, a run that included a victory over top-ranked Alabama - their first-ever triumph over a No. 1-ranked opponent. The success continued into 2011, despite a mid-season knee injury that took star runner Marcus Lattimore from the club for the final six games. Lattimore's been full-go since the summer and has thrown himself into contact at practices and scrimmages the past month. ''Marcus is ready to carry it 25 or 30 times,'' Spurrier said. The only questions on South Carolina's defense - ranked third in the country last fall behind LSU and Alabama - concern who's calling the plays, not who's making them. Coordinator Lorenzo Ward took over for Ellis Johnson, now head coach at Southern Miss. Ward has taken a more aggressive approach with the defensive game plan to force more turnovers and on-field havoc. ''We're going to be blitzing more than we did last year because we got a different coach and he pretty much likes to go get them,'' South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney said of Ward's style. Clowney said the players haven't worried about what others think they can achieve this season because the Gamecocks are after those same high goals. ''We're going to be ready,'' said Clowney, who had eight sacks and forced five fumbles as a freshman. Spurrier expects a big atmosphere at Vanderbilt with so much on the line. ''Somebody said the Goodyear Blimp is even going to be there first time ever,'' he said. The coach didn't have much trouble with Vanderbilt until 2007 when the Commodores stunned the sixth-ranked Gamecocks 17-6 to end the coach's 14-0 mark against the SEC East rivals. Vanderbilt followed that up a season later with a win in Nashville, its last against South Carolina. The players' attitudes and dedication to success have changed since then, Spurrier said. ''It's been a fun, more fun group to coach the last year or so, just because they all seem to want to do the same thing,'' the coach said. ''They all seem to be heading in the same direction.'' South Carolina senior tight end Justice Cunningham likes the attention Vanderbilt's put on this game because it shows how far the program's come. ''I really like that a lot,'' he said. ''We've earned some respect over the years.'' --- AP Sports Writer Teresa Walker in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

WATCH: K-State players storm student section after big win

Tony Dungy coaches his way into Canton

Top eight takeaways from NFL Honors awards

Report: Austin Rivers out 4-6 weeks with broken hand

Brett Favre Hall of Fame discussion took less than 10 seconds

WATCH: Pop wishes Kobe well in heartfelt message

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Eric Berry named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

Cam Newton to be named NFL MVP

Ezekiel Elliott hung out with Jim Brown

Rickie Fowler taunted by fans over his ex-girlfriend

Roger Goodell speaks about future of Pro Bowl in annual address

Mike Krzyzewski provides an update on his health

Another star confirmed for Super Bowl 50 halftime show

WATCH: Wayne Simmonds loses his cool, earns match penalty

Winners and losers from 2016 Hall of Fame vote

Brett Favre, Tony Dungy headline Hall of Fame Class of 2016

Terrell Owens says he was not elected to Hall of Fame

Bruins prospect hit in throat with puck, taken to hospital

WATCH: Mavs rookie laughed at for trash talking Spurs bench

Norris Cole has No. 30 retired with LeBron James, New Orleans Pelicans in attendance

Three keys to victory for the Broncos in Super Bowl 50

Torrey Smith: ‘This is probably the best offense’ for Kaepernick

Byron Scott thought D’Angelo Russell would be further along

Under-the-radar Super Bowl 50 matchups

Is Tim Lincecum's run with the San Francisco Giants done?

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker