Tennessee vs. No. 9 South Carolina
Saturday, noon ET
Neyland Stadium (102,455) • Knoxville, Tenn.
Radio: Vol Network (106.5 FM Chattanooga)
Series Record: UT leads 22-7-2
Why Saturday is important
Tennessee’s had two weeks to digest its 34-31 overtime loss to Georgia. Now the Vols must put that missed opportunity behind them and prepare to face another top-10 squad, a South Carolina team coming off a 52-7 win at Arkansas. How will UT respond? Will the Vols’ confidence grow after playing their best game of the season against the Bulldogs or will there be a slight hangover from the loss? It’ll be a noon start, students will be on fall break and the atmosphere likely won’t be as electric as it was two weeks ago. It’ll be all about executing and creating momentum for UT. South Carolina looked great last week, but the Gamecocks were shaky the weeks prior to that. It’s a winnable game for UT, but it’ll take another great effort from the Vols to get a victory on Saturday.
Three things to know about South Carolina
The 2013 season has been somewhat of a mixed bag for the Gamecocks. After opening the year with a 27-10 win over North Carolina, the Gamecocks fell to Georgia 41-30 in Week 2. They looked shaky in the next three games, closer-than-expected wins over Vanderbilt, Central Florida and Kentucky, before exploding in a 52-7 win over Arkansas last week. … The Gamecocks have one of the most balanced offenses in the league – averaging 225.7 yards per game on the ground and 260.8 yards of passing per contest. The run game hasn’t missed a beat without star running back Marcus Lattimore thanks in large part to the emergence of Mike Davis, who leads the SEC with 742 rushing yards. Quarterback Connor Shaw is having a great year as well with over 1,100 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and, perhaps most impressively, no interceptions. … The defense hasn’t been as dominant in 2013 as it was in 2012, but if last week’s effort was a good indication, it’s improving. After giving up at least 25 points in four consecutive games, the Gamecocks were dominant in Fayetteville, holding Arkansas to seven points, under 250 yards of total offense and, amazingly, only 30 total passing yards.
What you should know about South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
Few coaches have defeated Tennessee as much as Spurrier, who has a 14-8 record against the Vols dating back to his tenures at Florida and Duke as well as South Carolina. Even during UT’s strong run during the 1990s and early 2000s, Spurrier’s Gators still put up an 8-4 mark against the Vols. … A Johnson City, Tenn., native, Spurrier, never one to guard his words too closely, has enjoyed poking fun at Tennessee over the past couple decades. In the 90s, he famously said you can’t spell “Citrus Bowl” without UT, pointing to the bowl the Vols regularly landed in when finishing behind Florida. … Known for his high-flying passing game earlier in his coaching career, Spurrier has reinvented his style. Recent South Carolina teams, including this one, have featured a strong running attack and a stingy defense. There’s are still elements of Spurrier’s Fun and Gun offensive attack, though. Shaw, when healthy, has brought consistency to the quarterback position and has allowed Spurrier to open up the passing game in situations this season.
Tennessee player to watch
Quarterback Justin Worley, who grew up in South Carolina but wasn’t actively recruited by the Gamecocks, played perhaps his best game of the season against Georgia. Coaches have praised his consistent approach and his improvement throughout the season. After fighting for his job over the past few weeks, he goes into Saturday comfortably sitting as the starter and he’ll have a chance to build on his performance against UGA.
South Carolina player to watch
With just 14 tackles and two sacks through five games, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney isn’t putting up enormous numbers, but that doesn’t mean Tennessee can rest easy. Perhaps the best defensive player in the nation, Clowney has been bothered by minor injuries and illness at times this year, but he appears to be close to 100 percent heading into Saturday. His matchup with Tennessee left tackle Tiny Richardson and the rest of Tennessee's offensive line will have dozens of NFL scouts watching.
Random facts to impress your friends
Tennessee hasn’t defeated a ranked team since knocking off South Carolina on Oct. 31, 2009. … Tennessee’s loss to Georgia two weeks ago snapped a five-game winning streak at Neyland Stadium. A win over South Carolina would give the Vols wins in six of their last seven games at home. … Tennessee running backs coach Robert Gillespie was formerly an assistant coach at South Carolina. Tennessee coach Butch Jones is 8-1 all-time coming off a bye week. … Tennessee defensive lineman Corey Miller’s cousin, receiver Nick Jones, plays for South Carolina. … Of the last 11 meetings between UT and South Carolina, seven times it has been a one-score game into the fourth quarter.
"Everyone wants to make a big deal about Tiny and Jadeveon, but they do a great job he will be lined up over by Ja'Wuan James as much as Tiny. It is our entire offensive front, it is not just Jadeveon Clowney. He is a great player but they have great players around him."
- Jones on the matchup between Clowney and Richardson
The Vols will win if ...
They can carry over the momentum from the second half against Georgia. That was the best the Vols have executed in all three phases of the game this season. They sustained drives on offense, made plays on special teams and got some stops on defense. If that Tennessee team shows up against the South Carolina team that wasn’t playing its best a few weeks ago, the Vols have a good shot at pulling the upset.
The Vols will lose if ...
South Carolina’s balanced offense keeps the Gamecocks on the field and puts at least 28 points up. UT’s offense looks improved, but it still shouldn’t be confused as a unit that’s going to regularly put up 30-plus points against a solid SEC defense. Though the margin isn’t huge, South Carolina is the more talented team top to bottom. If the Gamecocks play up to their potential, they should escape Knoxville with a win, but their margin of error is thin.
Unofficial UT injury report:
Out: QB Nathan Peterman, TE Alex Ellis, TE Justin Meredith, TE Joseph Ayres, LB Curt Maggitt, WR Ryan Jenkins, WR Josh Smith, DT Maurice Couch (ineligible)
Questionable: DT Trevarris Saulsberry
Probable: RB Marlin Lane, WR Devrin Young
South Carolina 28, Tennessee 21
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee athletics for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielNooga
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