No. 21 South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, 5-2 ATS) at Tennessee Volunteers (3-4, 4-3 ATS) Neyland Stadium Knoxville, T.N. Saturday October 31st, 7:45PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: South Carolina +6/Tennessee -6
It took a blocked field goal last week to keep the Tennessee Volunteers from scoring what would have been one of the biggest victories of the decade last week against Alabama. In stead, the Volunteers dropped under the .500 mark on the season in Lane Kiffin’s first year as coach falling to the Crimson Tide 12-10. However the close loss gave the Vols faithful some hope for the future as the game symbolized the first sign of turning the corner. The Volunteers have played fairly well in the big games this year with close battles to Florida and Alabama who own the top two spots in the country. Still, Tennessee is sitting with a disappointing record as they take the prime stage again this Saturday night against the No. 21 South Carolina Gamecocks. Tennessee is loaded with one of the best defenses in the conference, but will they be able to hold off the young Steve Spurrier led offense?
The old face of the SEC from Steve Spurrier will meet with the eerie similar cocky and brash face of Lane Kiffin as egos collide this Halloween night. South Carolina held off Vanderbilt of all teams last week to improve to a 5-2 record on the season as they are just 1 game away from reaching their 4th bowl game in 5 years which would be the first for any South Carolina coach in history. The Gamecocks thumped a struggling Tennessee team last year 26-7, but it was just their 4th victory over Tennessee in 27 meetings. The Volunteers have had their way over South Carolina especially in Knoxville as they will seek from keeping South Carolina to just their 2nd victory ever on Rocky Top.
The Tennessee offense has been rather inconsistent all year, but the defense has played stellar. The Volunteers defense held Alabama and Florida to just 25 points combined in those impressive outings against the nation’s top two teams. Tennessee ranks 10th in the nation in total defense holding opponents to 270 yards per game. The secondary is even better sporting extremely talented safeties like Eric Berry who leads the 6th ranked pass defense in America. Those guys in the secondary will have to play very well against some young talented wide outs of South Carolina who have played well in recent weeks. The Volunteers will need their stellar defense to continue playing well if they are to truly turn the corner in the SEC and rest assured the stadium will be electric to get a chance at knocking off a Steve Spurrier coached football team.
QB Jonathan Crompton has had an up and down year this season. Crompton has thrown for 1,475 yards on the season while completing just 57%. The real problem that most will have with Crompton is his tendency to throw interceptions through out his career. The Tennessee quarterback has already thrown 10 this season which is the 2nd most in the SEC. However, over the last few weeks Crompton has thrown the ball much better throwing 7 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions. If this game turns out to be a defensive battle, Crompton must hold onto the ball. The offense will rely heavily on running back Montario Hardesty who is carrying the ball for 5 yards per carry and 720 total yards on the ground this season. Hardesty has been a huge asset to the Volunteers offense and he will be the biggest contributor this Saturday night. The Gamecocks defense has had troubles stopping the run this year and that should allow Hardesty to get at least 20 plus carries this Saturday night.
The South Carolina offense has really improved from the start of the year. QB Stephen Garcia has thrown for 1,794 yards with 11 touchdowns and 4 picks. Garcia’s performance has been far better from the inexperienced rookie we seen a year ago. Garcia still has a tendency to make a few bad passes, but has been rather solid for the most part. The receiving group has really been impressive down in South Carolina. In recent weeks freshman Alshon Jeffery has emerged as the go to guy on the team.
Jeffery was a former USC commit before backing out and landing with the USC of the east. In just the last 3 games, Jeffery has 19 catches for 387 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Gamecocks young wide out is a big body receiver who does a good job keeping defenders on his back. Look for South Carolina to look for Jeffery often along with another impressive freshman by the name of Tony Gurley. South Carolina has had a lot more effectiveness out of the running game this year behind freshmen Kenny Miles and Jarvis Giles. Miles has developed into the every down back and rushed for at least 100 yards or more in 2 of the last 3 outings. However, I expect there to be a lot less success on the ground this week against the Tennessee defense. If South Carolina is to capture the win the young receivers will have to make some plays.
Jay’s Pick - This is the time of the year South Carolina falls apart and it is a perfect time for that to start happening again against a Tennessee team that is hungry for a win. Take the Vols at -6.