I’ve had my fill of the gas-pumping saga.
Enough talk about Lane Kiffin, I-40 rockslides, David Reaves’ recruiting tactics, and the other UT/USC storylines – few of which have any real bearing on Saturday’s game in Knoxville.
Time for some good, ol’ rompin’, stompin’ SEC football. Halloween night on Rocky Top.
And you thought you saw a lot of orange at Clemson last year?
Tennessee seems like a spitting image of Alabama, with a fast, physical defense, a so-so quarterback and a tackle-breaking tailback who has the benefit of playing behind an experienced line.
It’s that last part that should concern USC fans.
Montario Hardesty is not on the same level as Alabama’s Mark Ingram, but he’s no slouch. Hardesty is averaging 102.9 rushing yards a game, while freshman Bryce Brown gives the Vols a nice change-of-pace back.
Ellis Johnson will try to crowd the line of scrimmage and force QB Jonathan Crompton to make plays. Though Crompton has played better of late, this is sound strategy considering Crompton’s entire body of work.
The problem is: USC knew the run was coming at Alabama – the Tide didn’t exactly disguise it when they direct-snapped to Ingram four or five times in the fourth quarter – and still couldn’t stop it.
But at least the Gamecocks kept the ‘Bama offense out of the end zone for the first 55 minutes. If USC can force field goals, Daniel Lincoln has shown he is far from automatic.
Offensively, I can’t see USC being able to run the ball effectively. The Vols held Ingram under 100 yards last week and are third in the SEC at stopping the run.
So it will be up to Stephen Garcia to avoid any game-changing turnovers, keep plays alive with his feet and hit a couple of long throws to Alshon Jeffery or Tori Gurley, who figure to be on the field together for the first time Saturday.
I don’t think the Gamecocks are going to go up and down the field against Eric Berry and Co. Garcia will be sacked several times and Spencer Lanning will do his share of punting.
But Garcia and the offense will do just enough and, like the last two trips to Knoxville, this one will come down to a field goal.
This time Lanning’s the hero.
USC 20, Tennessee 17