The Vanderbilt Commodores are set to host the South Carolina Gamecocks in Week 1 action. Kickoff is set for 8:00 EST on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Week 1 betting lines currently have the Commodores listed as a 3.5-point home favorite. The total for the matchup is set at 42.5 points.

It’s not very often we get a conference game right out of the gates. Though these two SEC East rivals did open up against each to start the 2012 campaign. The Gamecocks won that meeting and seven straight in the series. South Carolina won at home last year 19-10

While the Gamecocks won the head-to-head meeting, Vanderbilt finished with the better record. The Commodores went 4-9, while South Carolina was just 3-9.

Vanderbilt has gone just 7-17 in the first two years under head coach Derek Mason. Though they should be much improved in year 3 with 15 returning starters.

South Carolina will be in their first year under new head coach Will Muschamp. He takes over for Steve Spurrier, who resigned midway through last season. Muschamp will have a tough task in his first year on the job with just 9 returning starters.

Early Lean on Vanderbilt -3.5

This one is pretty simple for me. I have the Commodores rated ahead of the Gamecocks in my power rankings. Even though I would much rather have -3 instead of -3.5, I still lean towards Vanderbilt to cover.

It might not show in the win column, but Mason has this team moving in the right direction. I look for this team to really surprise some people in 2016.

South Carolina on the other hand is in a major rebuilding phase with only 9 starters back. Not to mention they will be adjusting to new systems on both sides of the ball.

It’s unclear who will be the starting quarterback for the Gamecocks. It’s down to senior Perry Orth and true freshman Brandon McIlwain. Either way I think advantage goes to Vanderbilt. Orth doesn’t really do anything great. McIlwain on the other hand would be making his first ever start on the road in a conference game. Chances are whoever starts is going to struggle.

Vanderbilt has 7 starters back on a defense that shined last year. The Commodores only gave up 21.0 ppg and 351 ypg. Pretty impressive given how the offense struggled to stay on the field.

I look for big improvements on offense for Vandy this season. Sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur guided the Commodores to two conference wins last year. Doing so as a true freshman. He should be even better and that’s going to make everyone else around him play with more confidence.

The Gamecocks were 0-5 in true road games last year. Their biggest problem away from home being their defense, which gave up 32.7 ppg and 482 ypg on the highway. With only 5 starters back on that side of the ball, the defense will struggle again in 2016.

You also have to factor in the motivational angle here for Vanderbilt. They haven’t beat South Carolina since 2007. What better way to start your season than end that streak in the home opener.

The Gamecocks are just 3-8 ATS in their last 11 games played in September. Vanderbilt on the other hand is 5-1 ATS in their last 6 in September. The Commodores are also 13-6 ATS in their last 19 conference games.