South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Complete Game Preview
Tennessee is a 3-3 football team with the victories coming against the likes of Austin Peay, Western Kentucky and South Alabama, but it lost out to Georgia in overtime 34-31.
Since then, the Vols had a week off and that extra week of preparation time could prove beneficial in this week's game against South Carolina.
South Carolina (5-1) has won three consecutive games against the Vols and enters Saturday's game coming off its best overall performance of the season in a 52-7 victory at Arkansas.
It's the second of three consecutive road games for the Gamecocks, who must play at Missouri next week.
Who: South Carolina Gamecocks (5-1, 3-1 SEC) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (3-3, 0-2 SEC)
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Series history: Tennessee leads 22-7-2
Keys to Victory for South Carolina
After three consecutive narrow victories in which the defense gave up big plays in the second half, South Carolina finally turned in a dominant, complete-game performance in last week's 52-7 victory over Arkansas.
The Gamecocks need to build upon that effort this week against Tennessee. There's a fine line between confidence and overconfidence, and the Gamecocks don't need to cross it.
Special teams play still needs improvement, and that could play a factor in a game in which the Vols will be pulling out all the stops for the upset.
Offensively, the Gamecocks need to just keep clicking along as they have done all season.
Keys to Victory for Tennessee
The Vols have a veteran offensive line, depth at wide receiver and a talented tailback.
What Tennessee needs most is more consistent play at quarterback, and that's where Justin Worley comes in.
Worley has completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 940 yards and nine touchdowns, but he has also thrown six interceptions.
If Tennessee is going to have a chance at the upset, Worley needs to have the game of his life, and the Vols defense will need to get some stops against a South Carolina offense that has been a model of precision.
Players to Watch for South Carolina
Quarterback Connor Shaw and tailback Mike Davis have been the key players for South Carolina this season.
Shaw has completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,146 yards and 10 touchdowns with no interceptions.
He's also the second-leading rusher on the team with 319 yards on 74 carries.
Davis leads the Gamecocks and the SEC in rushing yards per game, averaging 123.7, and he has 15 receptions for 185 yards.
One or both of these players should start showing up on some Heisman lists if they keep it up.
Players to Watch for Tennessee
Tennessee's offense has been a bit sporadic this season, but good things seem to happen for the Vols when they get the ball in the hands of tailback Rajion Neal.
Neal has rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns on 108 carries and has 14 receptions for 72 yards.
Sophomore safety Brian Randolph has three interceptions on an opportunistic Vols defense that already has 11 picks for the season.
Middle linebacker A.J. Johnson leads the team in tackles with 47.
What They're Saying
Tennessee coach Butch Jones was in Bristol, Tenn. on Monday hyping the "Battle of Bristol" football game to be played between Tennessee and Virginia Tech in 2016, but he also talked about Saturday's meeting with the Gamecocks. Per UTSports.com:
It's going to be a great challenge. We welcome another top-10 opponent. I think their results speak for themselves. I think they're an extremely complete football team when you look at physicality, you look at size, speed. They are coming in here with a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence. It's going to take our best effort to compete on Saturday.
Even though the Gamecocks are 5-1 and coming off a 52-7 victory at Arkansas, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said his team has been the beneficiary of some "good gracious" breaks. Per GamecocksOnline.com:
We did play better last week against Arkansas. There is still a lot of room for improvement. We had some good, gracious breaks, last week and the week before. I don't know if the gracious breaks are going to keep coming our way all the time - we are going to have to start earning a few of them and playing a little bit better at times.
Without a doubt, this looms as a potentially dangerous game for South Carolina, playing on the road against a Tennessee team with an extra week to prepare.
The Vols came within an eyelash of upsetting Georgia last time out and had to gain confidence from that effort, despite the loss.
However, Tennessee will have to find a way to slow a South Carolina offense that has been remarkably consistent all season.
Turnovers and a big play or two on special teams could prove to be a great equalizer, but the Gamecocks seem to have too many weapons on offense for the Vols to handle.
South Carolina 31, Tennessee 17