Tennessee is entering an incredibly important stretch of their season. If the Vols want to make a bowl they need to win at least 4 out of their next games. This is an achievable goal, but it won’t be easy. Their last five games are South Carolina, UAB, at Kentucky, at Missouri, and Vanderbilt. To start this stretch they play South Carolina this Saturday in Neyland stadium. The Gamecocks are coming off deflating loss at home vs Florida. The week before Florida they pulled what might be the biggest upset of the college football season by taking down no.3 Georgia.
The main story line for the Vols in this game is what will they do at QB. Last week freshman Brian Maurer suffered another concussion and looks to be unavailable this week. And to add to the controversy, long time starter and current back up QB Jarrett Guarantano stepped in and had one of the worst mistakes of his career when trying to sneak it over the goal line. It appeared he went rouge and went against his coaches play call. This play sparked major disruption among all Tennessee fans who are already frustrated with Guarantano. Third string J.T. Shrout to be put in to finish the Alabama game. Right now, it is uncertain who the starter will be.
Most Tennessee fans are familiar with the man leading the Gamecocks. Will Muschamp is entering his fourth season as South Carolina’s head coach, and he also was previously the coach for Florida for 4 season. His all-time record vs the Vols is a staggering 7-0. And each one of those wins were more painful than the last. As a die-hard Tennessee fan, I’m not the biggest Muschamp fan. His record at South Carolina is 25-21 and has taken them to bowl appearances in all three of his previous season at South Carolina. I think most Tennessee fans agree that there might not be a mediocre coach that gives this program more trouble.
Offensively the Gamecocks have had an up and down season to say the least. In the season opener, they lost their long time starting QB Jake Bentley to a season ending foot injury. With Bentley out they were forced to turn to true freshman Ryan Hilinski. Since taking over Hilinski has threw for over a thousand yards and 7 TD’s. While leading them to wins over Georgia and Kentucky.
On the ground they’ve been led by the tandem of Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster. The pair of seniors have put up over 450 yards each. 4 TD’s each, and both average 6 yards a carry. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks lost Dowdle to a knee injury last week vs Florida. Currently it is uncertain if he will be able to play this week.
On defense South Carolina is pretty stellar. On average they let up 25 points per game and have holes in their secondary. The main strength of this defense is in their defensive line with D.J. Wonnum, Aaron Sterling, and Kobe Smith leading the charge. It will be a big test for Tennessee’s improving offensive line. Each week the O-line keeps getting better and is starting to become a strength for the Vols. It will be an interesting matchup this Saturday.
This game is a hard one to judge. South Carolina has been playing the best ball of their season but may be deflated from the Florida loss. Tennessee is coming into this game also playing the best ball of their season but face major uncertainty at QB. Tennessee-South Carolina games always come down to the wire, but unfortunately Will Muschamp has a great record in one possession games. But with this game being in Neyland and with South Carolina coming off a deflating loss vs Florida I’m giving the edge to Tennessee this week.
Prediction: South Carolina 21 Vols 23