South Carolina vs. Tennessee: Why Gamecocks Should Be Wary of Volunteers
The country gets its first real taste of South Carolina's new-look offense this weekend against the Tennessee Volunteers.
On paper the Gamecocks are a clear favorite. Tennessee is 0-4 in the conference and have been blown out by Alabama and LSU.
But South Carolina has their own problems.
Connor Shaw is still making the transition into the starting quarterback role and Brandon Wilds will be making his first start at running back in place of the injured Marcus Lattimore.
A matchup with No. 10 Arkansas may be looming large over the Gamecocks collective heads, but they can't overlook the Volunteers.
Here are five reasons for South Carolina to be wary of Tennessee.
5. The Volunteers Played Alabama Tough for a Half
I realize a half of football doesn't mean much if you lose the game, but Tennessee played really well in the first half against the Crimson Tide last week.
They went into the locker rooms with the score tied at 6-6, holding Bama to just two field goals in the first half.
Perhaps the Crimson Tide were looking over their shoulder to their meeting with LSU.
But anytime you hold a team to its lowest first half output in two years (Nov. 7, 2009), it is worth noting.
The Volunteers played great against Trent Richardson and the Alabama run game in that first half.
If Tennessee plays with the intensity and drive that they showed early against Alabama, then they can compete with this rebuilt Gamecocks squad.
4. Da'Rick Rogers
With virtually no rushing attack the Volunteers will be forced to take to the air early and often against the Gamecocks.
Da'Rick Rogers is clearly their best receiving threat and has the type of quick-strike ability that must be accounted for.
Rogers has 37 catches for 608 yards and six touchdowns this season.
He has been relatively quiet since his Week 5 dismantling of Buffalo, where he caught seven passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
The quarterback change this week may hurt his production, but the likelihood is quite the opposite.
Look for young signal-caller Justin Worley to lean on his most productive weapon.
3. The Gamecocks Don't Know What to Expect from Justin Worley
It is both a curse and a blessing to the Gamecocks that they get to see freshman Justin Worley.
Worley is actually from the Palmetto State and is yet to start a collegiate game.
With no real film on Worley the Gamecocks may be at a slight competitive disadvantage, at least early in the ball game.
Tennessee has the luxury of watching breakdowns of Connor Shaw's play and learning his tendencies and weaknesses.
But never having taken a snap in the SEC also means that Worley will be like fresh meat for Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks defensive line.
They will need to pressure him early and often. The best way to rattle the nerves of a young player is to throw him to the turf a couple of times.
2. Connor Shaw Is Still Inexperienced
Yes, Connor Shaw has started games this season, but his experience still leaves much to be desired.
Shaw was 20-of-28 for 155 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions two weeks ago against Mississippi State.
His inexperience is often masked by his ability to make plays outside the pocket.
But with a freshman running back joining him in the backfield this week, he will be forced to play more consistently.
The game gets inherently tougher when you don't have an All-American running back and Heisman Trophy hopeful to hand the ball off to.
Look for Tennessee to throw countless blitz packages at Shaw and to frequently disguise their coverages.
It is time to see if Shaw steps up and embraces his new role or folds under the pressure.
1. Arkansas Is Just a Week Away
Nothing to throw off your mental preparation like a huge conference showdown looming just a week away.
The No. 10 Arkansas Razorbacks are undoubtedly in the thoughts of the Gamecocks.
The question is whether they can ignore Arkansas and focus on the task at hand against Tennessee.
It can be easy to look over a team with an 0-4 conference record and a freshman quarterback.
With distractions abound for the Gamecocks, it will be interesting to see their level of play when they take the field at Neyland Stadium.