David Cloninger

USC vs. Tennessee: 5 gameday storylines, 5 key numbers

Will South Carolina's AJ Turner get back into the tailback rotation this week?
Will South Carolina's AJ Turner get back into the tailback rotation this week? dmclemore@thestate.com

1. THE FUTURE

Will Muschamp made it clear that Jake Bentley and Brandon McIlwain will helm South Carolina’s quarterback position going forward, with Perry Orth an emergency option. Bentley looked good against UMass, until the Gamecocks tried to salt a halftime lead throughout the second half, but once they turned him loose again, he succeeded. McIlwain was hit-and-miss, not helped by telegraphed plays when he entered, but perhaps the playbook will have a few surprises for Tennessee.

2. COMING BACK AROUND AGAIN?

The Gamecocks lost 12 straight to Tennessee before Steve Spurrier won five of eight, but now USC has lost three straight to the Vols, by a combined eight points. Perhaps Saturday is when the series reverses.

3. WHO’S HEALTHY?

Tennessee has filled a hospital ward with injuries this year and will limp into Williams-Brice missing a lot of starters and playing a few others who are not 100 percent. The Gamecocks are mostly healthy. Will that make a difference?

4. TOTE

David Williams had a solid game last week while Rico Dowdle handled the flash plays, but A.J. Turner could return to the running back rotation this week. With Bentley unlikely to run the ball, the Gamecocks need a solid running back. They may have three.

5. WHO WANTS IT MORE?

Tennessee has lost two straight and needs this game to stay in the hunt for the SEC East. The Gamecocks would like to get this one to notch a fourth victory and remain in contention for a bowl game. There’s pressure on each side.

FIVE NUMBERS

127

South Carolina’s nationwide rank in scoring offense after hanging 34 points on UMass. Buffalo took over as the nation’s worst-scoring team, at two whole points per game below the Gamecocks.

2.75

Average margin of victory in the last four USC-Tennessee games, the Volunteers winning the last three.

5

Tennessee starters that will miss the USC game, including three who are out for the year. Two more starters are wait-and-see for Saturday.

9

Consecutive home games since the last time USC kicked off at night.

4

Most requested jersey number at the USC bookstore this week, after freshman quarterback Jake Bentley took the role against the Minutemen.

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