Once again, Vanderbilt and South Carolina start their seasons against each other, kicking off on Thursday night in Nashville. Neither team is expected to compete for many SEC honors this year, but this game represents a great opportunity for each to try to snag a rare conference win.
Vanderbilt comes into 2016 with one of the nastiest defenses in the SEC. The Commodores held opponent after opponent in check, but their total lack of an offense let them down time and time again last year. They were neither efficient nor explosive, so they're hoping a new year, some new faces and a little more experience will help pick up the pace. If Vanderbilt can cobble together even an average offense, it will be an extremely unpleasant team to play against.
Bill C.'s big previews
Bill C.'s big previews
Speaking of unpleasant, that's what South Carolina's season will probably be. The Gamecocks are basically starting over under Will Muschamp, and Steve Spurrier did not exactly leave the cupboard stocked for him. They desperately need to win this game if they want to finish out of the SEC East basement, but it won't be easy or fun.
How to watch, stream and listen
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Vanderbilt opened the week favored by 3.5 points.
Three big things to know
1. Battle to get out of the SEC East basement
The winner of this game has a huge leg up on not finishing in last in the SEC East this year, though Kentucky will probably have something to say about this as well. These teams are going to be scrambling for conference wins and can't miss a good opportunity for one.
2. Can Vanderbilt muster any semblance of an offense?
Defense is not an issue in Nashville, but the offense very clearly is. The Commodores finished 124th in scoring offense last year, putting up a paltry 15.2 points per game. That is simply not good enough. If they can push that number into the low- to mid-20s, it would give the defense a lot more breathing room.
3. The Muschamp era at South Carolina will probably start slowly
The Gamecocks face significant attrition on both sides of the ball, and that's from a team that only went 3-9 in 2015. The optimist would say that it's not necessarily a bad thing to get some new blood in there after such a bad season, but that's generally not how this goes. Muschamp is pretty much starting from scratch with South Carolina, and considering how unpleasant his teams were to watch at Florida, this could be a rough year for Gamecock fans.