David Cloninger

Cloninger’s pick: Defense holds the key to USC’s chances

South Carolina’s D.J. Smith (24) is expected to start at safety Saturday.
South Carolina’s D.J. Smith (24) is expected to start at safety Saturday. gmelendez@thestate.com

Tennessee has rebounded a bit but is still 4-4. The Volunteers are talented but have lost in mind-numbing ways, and they can still be taken down for the count since all of the SEC East is playing for second place.

South Carolina can win this game. Its offense can give Tennessee fits and put points on the board. The Gamecocks believe they can win and with it being such a close trip, they’ll have plenty of fans there that believe the same.

The problem is the defense. The Gamecocks can’t stop anyone. They don’t appear interested in trying new ways to try and stop anyone. Asking Perry Orth to constantly lead touchdown drives is akin to asking a Kardashian to stop looking for a camera – it’s not gonna happen.

USC will be in the game and put the Vols on their heels, but another loss is always a two-minute drive away. The Gamecocks could get a turnover or two, but the main difference in the game is going to be how many times Joshua Dobbs and Company don’t turn it over. That will be on the several drives where they hit wide-open receivers, run through wide-open holes and explore just how wide-open the end zone is.

It may come down to another last-second drive with a chance to win, but as much as the Gamecocks’ offense has improved, it still hasn’t figured out how to protect, run and execute a game-winning drive. Rocky Topped one more time.