Tennessee Volunteers (6-1, 2-1 in SEC) -3, O/U 44 at South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2, 3-2), 7:45 p.m. Eastern Saturday, ESPN
by Predictem.com Staff
The resurgent Tennessee Volunteers hit the road for another key SEC game when they take on Coach Spurriers South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday night in Columbia.
Tennessee, at 2-1, and South Carolina, at 3-2, are basically tied for second place in the Southeastern Conferences East Division, one game back of the first-place Florida Gators.
Both teams have been kind to their financial backers this season; Tennessee is 5-2 against the spread, while S.C. is 5-1 vs. the numbers.
The Vols opened this season with a 35-18 beating of a highly regarded Cal Bears team in a game that Tennessee led 35-0 in the 3rd quarter. UT then hung on by the skin of their teeth to beat Air Force, got beat by Florida 21-20 in Knoxville, beat down Marshall and Memphis, scored 27 fourth-quarter points to win at Georgia, and had to come from behind last week to beat Alabama 16-13 as 10-point home favorites. The Vols held the Tide to 53 rushing yards and 211 total yards.
S.C. opened this season with a 15-0 win over Mississippi State, lost to Georgia, beat Wofford and Florida Atlantic, fell at home to Auburn 24-17, then won at Kentucky and, last week, at Vanderbilt 31-13.
The Gamecocks are 4-1 since senior Syvelle Newton took over as the starting QB. Newton is hitting 63% of his passes so far this season, owns a 10/4 TD/INT ratio, and has run the ball for 230 yards. In fact, the Spurrier attack is now much more ground-oriented; S.C. is averaging 30 rushes and just 23 passes a game this season. The Cocks are, however, getting outrushed by a 147-139 yards-per-game average this season.
Tennessee owns a slight 120-119 RYPG average this season. But junior QB Erik Ainge, with 18 career collegiate starts under his belt, has been pretty good this season, completing 67% of his passes on his way to a 14/8 TD/INT ratio.
The Vols returned 12 starters from the team that went a disappointing 5-6 overall and 3-5 in the SEC last season.
South Carolina returned only 10 starters from a team that went 7-5 overall and 5-3 in the SEC in Spurriers first season in charge last year.
These two teams have played just one common opponent so far this season. The Volunteers, with the help from that great 4th quarter, beat Georgia 51-33 in Athens three weeks ago, while the Bulldogs beat the Gamecocks 18-0 in Columbia in Week 2.
The Gamecocks pulled an upset last season when they went into Knoxville and rallied to beat the Vols 16-15 as 14-point road underdogs. Tennessee outrushed S.C. 172-65 that day, but generated only 99 passing yards. The lead went back and forth, and the Cocks won it on a long field goal with under three minutes to play. The game easily stayed under its posted total of 45.
The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Vols 16th at 85.7, the Cocks 36th at 77.4.
Tennessee opened up as 4 -point road chalk for this game, but that number has been bet down to 3.