Josh Kendall

This will be the difference in South Carolina-Tennessee game

USC defense’s biggest concerns against Tennessee

Will Muschamp speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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Will Muschamp speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

There are several glaring issues with South Carolina’s football team – an inconsistent offense, a porous run defense and a shaken secondary come to mind quickly – but effort and motivation have never been in that category, Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp insists.

Those two things ought to be good enough Saturday to beat a bad Tennessee football team. South Carolina is 3-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. The Vols are 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SEC with that lone conference win coming against a reeling Auburn team.

“There’s not been one moment that I’ve wondered about the motivation of this football team, there really hasn’t to be honest with you,” Muschamp said. “We had a great off week. We put pretty strict guidelines on what we needed to do to improve our football team, and they embraced that and took that and ran with that.”

Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt is in the same position Muschamp was in two seasons ago, rebuilding a team with structural flaws. The Gamecocks should be ahead in their rebuilding process simply because of time served, and Muschamp believes his team is improving “from a standpoint of player improvement, unit improvement when you look week to week, month to month, within the season and day-to-day progress,” he said.

“Obviously, you’re measured by your record. You are what your record is at the end of the day and we’re 3-3 right now,” he said. “From my eyes I see a lot of improvement from week one to where we are at this point.”

Here’s the difference in Saturday’s game: Tennessee’s rush defense is 10th in the SEC, allowing 162 yards per game on the ground. South Carolina runs the ball less than anybody in the SEC but has made a commitment to changing that during its week off. Expect the Gamecocks to top 40 rushing attempts today (with several to Deebo Samuel) and control this game.

“If we’re going to run it, let’s run the ball,” Muschamp said this week.

That and a spark from their first home night game of the season will get the Gamecocks the win.

“There’s a lot out there (for motivation),” Muschamp said. “You’re playing for the University of South Carolina. You have the opportunity to go out there and play in front of 80,000 people Saturday night. What else do you need to get motivated about?”

South Carolina 20, Tennessee 15

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