David Cloninger

A Halloween weekend upset? Gamecocks must stop the run

South Carolina’s run defense must be better to have a chance to top Tennessee.
South Carolina’s run defense must be better to have a chance to top Tennessee. dmclemore@thestate.com

It’s a little-known – or perhaps just ignored – fact that South Carolina has cost two Tennessee coaches their jobs. Johnny Majors and his successor, Phillip Fulmer, were each turfed after losing to the Gamecocks.

I don’t know if Butch Jones knows that, but I know Jones realizes that all that was golden in a 5-0 start has suddenly tarnished with two straight losses. Even a win over Florida will be negated if the Volunteers can’t re-take control of the SEC East.

This game has traditionally been close, slim at Williams-Brice Stadium and razor-thin for home games on Halloween weekend. The Vols are limping into the game with several players hurt and their overall psyche wounded, after the horseshoe finally fell out against Texas A&M and Alabama mauled them.

The Gamecocks have had problems scoring and their defense has not been great the last two games. But they seemed to rally under new quarterback Jake Bentley, and while the defense has to fix some issues, it knows it faces a quarterback in Joshua Dobbs who is not great at throwing downfield. If USC can stop the run, it stands a great chance to pull the upset.

I said in the preseason USC shouldn’t fear this game, because I didn’t buy the Tennessee hype (I voted Florida as East champ). I won’t back off that statement now. Whether it’s Hank Campbell stopping a two-point conversion or a Rock Hillian intercepting another Rock Hillian in the end zone, the Gamecocks take this one.

As for whether USC’s streak against Tennessee coaches reaches three?

Not for me to decide.