Josh Kendall's take
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Tennessee decides to do something crazy.
The Volunteers are 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the SEC heading into Saturday’s game against South Carolina. They have lost 16 of their last 18 SEC games. They can’t find a quarterback, no offense to starter and Rock Hill native Justin Worley.
Still, Tennessee has had two weeks to prepare for the No. 11 Gamecocks thanks to their open date last week. The week before that was a 34-31 overtime loss to Georgia in Neyland Stadium. My question is: Will first-year head coach Butch Jones take that as a sign of progress and think if he just stays the course he’s got a chance to beat South Carolina? Or, will Jones think, “That’s about as good as we can play under our current setup so let’s get whacky.”?
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I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the latter. What changes could Tennessee make? Well, it could replace Worley, but it tried that once and Nathan Peterman was worse. Peterman is now fourth team, so maybe freshman Joshua Dobbs or freshman Riley Ferguson gets a shot next.
Or, the Vols could have seen the success Kentucky, and to a lesser extent Arkansas, had against the Gamecocks with the Wildcat quarterback formation and line up wide receiver Pig Howard or tailback Rajion Neal as a single wing and hope for the best.
For some reason, I think Tennessee will try something like that. Something about the smell of desperation.
Prediction: South Carolina 30, Tennessee 17
David Cloninger's take
South Carolina is feeling very good, and should, after a 45-point win last week in a place where it has historically been lousy. With all of the good fortune coming the Gamecocks’ way in terms of opponents losing games or losing players, USC is right back in the hunt for the SEC East championship.
Today’s game at Tennessee is another chance to show that the corner has definitely been turned. The struggles of the early season have been glaring at times, but none of them showed up at Arkansas last week.
The Gamecocks did get some breaks, but it was a game where it was proven that the early disappointments weren’t as bad as they seemed. USC’s defense, as coach Steve Spurrier pointed out, has actually been pretty solid. It’s just those three fourth quarters before the Tennessee game were so deficient that it was easy to think that USC’s defense was broken beyond repair.
Even with playing a bit of an unknown opponent on the road, even with Tennessee having an extra week to prepare, USC should roll in this game. The Volunteers’ offense, despite boasting a running back that is averaging over 100 yards per game, isn’t frightening. Having past success against quarterback Justin Worley (some from high school, to at least one player on USC’s defense) only helps that. The Gamecocks’ offense can expect to have a lot of room against a defense ranked 11th in the league.
All they have to do is remember how focused they were last week and re-channel it into another game. Having the intensity should be easy – USC knows what position it’s in. And I’m sure that if Spurrier and Company saw any lapses during the last week, a quick review of the fourth quarters before Arkansas solved that problem.
USC may have a yip or two, but wins this game comfortably. Mike Davis could really crack the Heisman Trophy watch list after today.
Prediction: USC 35, Tennessee 14