South Carolina vs. Tennessee: How Do the Gamecocks Avoid the Trap?

DJ BatchlerCorrespondent IOctober 29, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 9: Tailback Brian Maddox #10 of the South Carolina Gamecocks runs upfield behind the block of guard Rokevious Wadkins #73 against the Alabama Crimson Tide October 9, 2010 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

After South Carolina's defeat of Alabama, the Gamecocks have had three consecutive trap games. Kentucky, Vanderbilt and the most unlikely of all, Tennessee. They have split the two they've played thus far, with Tennessee making the trip to the Cockpit this Saturday.

Tennessee has dominated the series, but the 2010 Volunteers aren't the Volunteers of years past. The last time Tennessee came to Columbia the Gamecocks prevailed 27-6. An outcome that must be repeated, and hopefully improved upon.

As has been stated previously the Gamecocks aren't used to being targets. For the third straight week the Gamecocks face a head coach new to their respective university. Also, for the third straight week, the Gamecocks are in the unfamiliar position of being a statement win for a team, coach or program.

For the Gamecocks, staying focused is the biggest deciding factor in their success against Tennessee. If the Gamecocks were to look ahead to Arkansas or Florida or even the score of the Georgia/Florida game, it would spell disaster. Not only for the game against Tennessee, but for the SEC title hopes that are still very realistic.

On paper, the Gamecocks are the better team in 2010. They are 19-point favorites, according to some. The Gamecocks need not let that thought enter their minds. Being confident is a must, but being arrogant is a detriment.

The usual suspects, in Garcia, Lattimore, Jeffery and Gurley need to play sound, mistake free football. They must also play with urgency, but not desperation. Forgetting the pressure of the SEC Championship game, and only focusing on Tennessee will go a long way in locking up another SEC win against an opponent with a roster in flux.

With Marcus Lattimore returning and he is saying with confidence that he feels 100%. Lattimore obviously adds a great deal to the Gamecock offense. For a half against Vanderbilt the Gamecocks looked a bit flat, but rattled off 21 unanswered in the final minutes of the second quarter and final half of that game.

Brian Maddox did emerge as an incredibly solid number two back for Lattimore. Kenny Miles did himself no favors. With a clear cut and healthy starting lineup back in place the Gamecocks match up equally or favorably against the rest of their opponents. Ace Sanders and Patrick DiMarco remain the wildcards that could make a difference if the stars are shut down or contained.

The defense also has a favorable match up against Tennessee. Tennessee has made it clear they'll use a quarterback rotation, and Matt Simms has made it clear that he isn't happy about it. The Gamecocks defense needs to pressure both Volunteer quarterbacks early and often. Getting to those quarterbacks like the Gamecocks got to Greg McElroy would be a huge factor in the outcome.

The Gamecocks defense has been sufficient. At times it hasn't looked good. Especially statistically. The two losses came from getting gashed by the likely Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The second loss was part emotional letdown coming off the high of the Alabama win, part no help from the offense in shutdown mode after losing Lattimore, and one blown coverage on the final defensive play against Kentucky.

This weekend will depend heavily on coaching, focus and execution. Its the same for every game, but in a position a team isn't used to, those three things are far more important than your typical game. The Gamecocks are confident coming off reported good practices and deliberate preparation during "Tennessee Week."