If you asked 100 people this Saturday who would win between the Tennessee Volunteers and the South Carolina Gamecocks, maybe two or three would pick Tennessee.
The Vols have not won a big game since 2007 (Georgia in 2009 doesn't count). This team has the ability to play well against good teams. The game last week against Alabama proved that to an extent. South Carolina is a different team and is not as good as Alabama.
Here are the reasons the Volunteers will win Saturday.
Marlin Lane scores against Florida
For a team that started the season out struggling to run the ball against Montana and Cincinnati, the Vols have gotten better as the season has progressed.
Last week's game against Alabama proved that better than anything. The Volunteers rushed for 92 yards, just 15 yards shy of Penn State's total against Alabama. In the previous four games, the Crimson Tide had allowed 101 yards rushing against Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Florida and Arkansas.
Also, if you were Nick Saban, wouldn't your game plan against Tennessee be to stop the run and force Matt Simms to throw the ball? Tennessee ran the ball against one of the best defenses in the country against a game plan that focused on stopping the run.
South Carolina should be a battle in the trenches, but after playing LSU and Alabama, running the ball should be much easier.
For those of you who don't know anything about Justin Worley, here's a quick bio.
He's a 6'4" freshman from Rock Hill, South Carolina. He won the Gatorade High School Player of the Year Award last year and broke almost every South Carolina state football record. He's even more of a prodigy than Tyler Bray and could be the next Peyton Manning (yeah, some say that about Bray, too).
I think he has the ability to be a great quarterback, but what separates him from the rest is his mind. Tyler Bray has the arm, but some wonder where his head is when he is not on the field. Worley has football on his mind 24/7 and he has a good head on his shoulders.
Burning his redshirt is still up for debate, but what I do know is that he is better than Matt Simms. Then again, who isn't?
Marcus Lattimore has a chance to be one of the greatest SEC running backs ever.
That's because he has two more years of eligibility. He is a legitimate front-runner for the Heisman next year as well. That won't matter on Saturday because Lattimore is out for the season with a knee injury.
This gives Tennessee a chance to put pressure on Connor Shaw, a young quarterback with limited experience. It's a tough call on whether to focus on stopping the run or the pass, but my guess is the focus will be on the run. Stopping the run puts pressure on Shaw and with Alshon Jeffery having a rough season, make them beat you through the air.
The Volunteers defense has been improving all year and Derek Dooley has been integrating some of the younger guys into the game to get them valuable experience and add depth to the team. Players like A.J. Johnson and Malik Jackson have been leading the defense and giving the team some much-needed confidence and leadership.
At the start of the season, the defense looked scared and tentative, but now they are composed and believe in their ability to stop the opposition's offense. The key factor will be if the defense can wrap up and make tackles. Broken tackles have killed this team and if they want to stay off the field and give the offense better chances to score points, they better tackle and hit hard.
Neyland Stadium can get to the best of players, even ones that have been there before. Over 100,000 fans is something that only a few schools can match. The fans on Rocky Top know how big this game is and they will show up in full force.
This is the biggest game since going away to Florida due to the fact that we're not playing the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country. Tennessee are underdogs yet again, but not nearly as bad as the last two weeks. This is the last game at Neyland Stadium that will feature a ranked team and the Vols are almost assured a bowl berth with a win against either South Carolina or Arkansas.
Derek Dooley and the Volunteers need a signature win and this has the perfect setup for a thriller.