This weekend's bout between the Tennessee Volunteers and South Carolina Gamecocks features two teams that desperately need a win. The Vols are looking to salvage a disappointing season and avoid a four-game losing streak, while the Gamecocks are hoping to evade a three-game losing streak of their own and get back in the SEC race.
Tennessee (3-4) is at the end of a rough six-game stretch, playing five teams that are currently ranked in the Top 13 of the BCS. The Volunteers were embarrassed by Alabama last week, but with a big win in Columbia, they could end the season 8-4.
South Carolina (6-2) looked to be a serious force with which to be reckoned after beating No. 5 Georgia 35-7, but since then, the Gamecocks have been dealt two straight losses. A win against the Volunteers sets South Carolina up to enter the Clemson game at season's end with a 9-2 record.
Here is a full preview of this weekend's game.
When: Saturday, October 27
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium - Columbia, SC
Time: 12 p.m. ET
Weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 74 degrees and a low of 56 degrees
The big Tennessee news this week came from Derek Dooley's comments on Tyler Bray's status as the starting quarterback:
"If [Bray] is loose with the ball, he's coming out of the game and we're going to play [Justin] Worley." -GoVolsXtra
After a string of tough losses, Vols receiver Cordarrelle Patterson remains steadfast:
Bray retweeted a picture of the infamous Rock on the Tennessee campus in support of the team:
— Whitney Barnard (@Whitney_GoVols) October 17, 2012
South Carolina's Steve Spurrier has stated adamantly that Marcus Lattimore will be back this Saturday, only coming if he's hurt:
The Tennessee Volunteers are wrapping another brutal October that featured two top-11 teams -- three, if you include September 29th's game at Georgia -- and a third straight 31-point loss to Alabama.
October hasn't been good to the Vols under Derek Dooley, who has gone 1-10 during the month. At the very least, the Vols will be able to turn the page to a friendlier November after the early kick-off Saturday.
The story for Tennessee has been the ongoing Tyler Bray soap opera. Most recently, the junior quarterback declined to speak to the media after the Alabama loss, for which Dooley publicly called him out.
If the Vols are to win, they need their star quarterback -- many experts' pick to win the 2012 Davey O'Brien Award -- to step up his decision-making and leadership.
Rajion Neal, whose solid production at tailback has been a both a blessing and a surprise for Tennessee, will be back after missing the Alabama game with an ankle injury.
Right guard Zach Fulton is doubtful for the game with an ankle injury of his own. If he can't go, look for accomplished sophomore guard Marcus Jackson to get the start.
After an impressive thrashing of No. 5 Georgia three weeks ago, the South Carolina Gamecocks have posted back-to-back disappointing performances to fall from 6-0 to 6-2.
The common thread in those two losses is the lack of Marcus Lattimore's production. When the stud junior tailback has at least 85 yards rushing, the Gamecocks are 5-0.
Lattimore has been hindered by a hip injury for a couple weeks but is apparently healing up. It may be time for one of his patented 30-carry games.
Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive end in the country, disruptive in both the running and the passing games. His 7.5 sacks is second in the SEC and has helped the Gamecocks lead the SEC in team sacks with 29.
He'll need to be on his A-game against one of the best sack-reducing offensive lines in the country in Tennessee.
Tennessee is currently a 14-point road underdog at South Carolina this week.
The Gamecock defense can be stifling, but Florida showed last week that South Carolina's offense and special teams are susceptible to putting the defense in bad spots with turnovers and long returns.
The Vols need star wide receiver and returner Cordarrelle Patterson to have a few big plays to beat the spread.
The over/under is 55 points, a moderate total. This could be a running battle between Marcus Lattimore and Rajion Neal, which leads me to believe a good shot at the under.
The Tennessee Volunteers haven't defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks since the epic Halloween Game of 2009. Even then, the Vols probably weren't as talented as the Gamecocks.
On the road against a pissed off South Carolina team, it is essential that the Vols force quarterback Connor Shaw into some mistakes, similar to what they did against Aaron Murray of Georgia.
But the weak Tennessee secondary has been on full display the past couple weeks, something that Steve Spurrier will scheme to exploit, and there is no doubt in the inequality Spurrier > Sal Sunseri.
Tennessee 20 - South Carolina 30