The Vols travel to Columbia on Saturday to take on South Carolina and our staff predicted the outcome of the game for your reading (and gambling) pleasure.
According to Las Vegas, Tennessee is currently an 8-point underdog. Let’s get to it…
Celina Summers (@CelinaSummers):
South Carolina 28
Jordan Burns (@VolSportsTalkJB):
Tennessee and South Carolina may not have a storied rivalry, but the past six meetings between the two programs certainly have the intense competition side down. Since 2012, the average margin of victory is 3.3 ppg. Four of which have been decided by 3 points or less. And they are 3-3 vs each other since 2012, as well. However, Tennessee has dropped the last two battles with the Gamecocks. For some reason, the Vols just can’t seem to beat a Will Muschamp-led squad. They are 0-6 against the former Florida coach.
The latest loss in 2017 came at a time when the fan base was beyond fed up, the coaching was incompetent, to say the least, and the program was falling to shambles. But the Vols look different this year. A good different. Jeremy Pruitt has done a solid job, considering what he has to work with. Though only 3-4 overall, Tennessee was able to go on the Plains two weeks ago and take down the Auburn Tigers. A very impressive win for a first-year head coach.
Yes, Tennessee got demolished by Alabama last Saturday. But who hasn’t? And Tennessee once again showed that when they open up the playbook, good things happen. They managed to go back and forth with the Tide in the 2nd quarter. And they also showed something far more important.
Pruitt has instilled a relentless fight in this football team. And it has been on display this season, especially since Georgia to this point. That will pay dividends going forward, starting with this Saturday. South Carolina has not looked as sharp as we had anticipated going into the season. They have notched SEC wins over Missouri and Vandy, but have lost to all of their truly quality competition in Kentucky, Georgia, and Texas A&M. It looks like Muschamp hasn’t figured out how to run an offense after all and now they have a QB dilemma, after Jake Bentley’s ability has come into question lately. There’s been rumors that senior QB Michael Scarnecchia, who led the Cocks to their win over Mizzou, may see the field this Saturday.
However, Tennessee fans don’t seem to be completely sold on Jarrett Guarantano either. Grad Transfer QB Keller Chryst played very well after Guarantano was injured this past Saturday. He went 9-15 for 164 yards and 2 TD’s. Be that as it may, Pruitt shut those rumblings down, as he said that Guarantano looks fine and should be ready to go in Columbia.
Unfortunately, however, Sophomore phenom OL Trey Smith will not be good to go this Saturday, as blood clots in his lungs showed up once again. He is out indefinitely, with his future uncertain. But one thing that is for certain, is that we all hope that Smith and his family put his health before anything else.
All of this being said, the game is a night kick in Columbia, and South Carolina, though not by much, is the better team. I firmly believe Tennessee has a very good chance to pull this off, they simply don’t have much success against quality SEC teams on the road at night. Tennessee goes toe-to-toe, but comes up just shy of a big-time road SEC win. Prove me wrong, Big Orange.
South Carolina 20
Matthew Dossett (@MatthewD9999):
There is no skating around the fact that the Vols were throttled last week at home against the Crimson Tide from Alabama. The team needs to turn the page and flush that game down the toilet. If you have not already noticed, Alabama has been embarrassing everyone this season. Heck, their closest game was a win by 22 against the Texas A&M Aggies.
South Carolina is a much, much more winnable game opposed to last week. They are not bad by any means but they honestly do not scare me. They are 2-3 on conference play while Tennessee is 1-3. Neither of these teams are world beaters. Jarrett Guarantano will be back and ready to roll. He took a beating last week but then again, South Carolina’s defense is not Alabama’s defense.
If Guarantano was to exit the game, I don’t think there would be much of a drop off with Keller Chryst. You could make the argument Chryst is better for the offense due to the fact he gets rid of the ball quicker and has a quicker release.
If this was a morning or day game I would feel a lot more confident. It will be a night time ball game and Williams-Brice Stadium will be rocking. If Tennessee plays the way they did against Auburn they will walk out victorious. If they don’t they probably won’t win.
Another variable to consider is that the Gamecocks are coming off a bye week. That means that they have had more time to game plan and scheme against Tennessee.
I think both teams will strap up and come to play. This has the feel of being a whacky, nutty game. I expect Guarantano to have a good outing, force feeding the ball to Marquez Callaway and Jajuan Jennings. I expect running back Ty Chandler to be utilized not just rushing the ball but as a receiver on the edge. Ultimately I think the Vols win.
South Carolina 27
Charlie Burris (@Charlie_Burris):
I don’t know that there will be a tougher game to predict on Tennessee’s entire 2018 schedule than this one. The Vols and Gamecocks are in very similar positions.
UT is 3-4 overall. SC is 3-3. Tennessee is scoring 25.8 points per game, South Carolina is putting up 28.8. The Vols’ defense is allowing 385.1 yards of offense per game, the Gamecocks are giving up 378.3 yards per contest.
It’s a bit of a stalemate and typically, a situation like that comes down to which team has the best coach on the sidelines. Will Muschamp is undefeated against Tennessee as a head coach. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the Vols but Butch Jones is no longer leading the Big Orange, and that can only be a good thing.
From everything I’ve seen so far, I think Jeremy Pruitt will be a better coach than Muschamp in the long-run but I have to consider the fact that Pruitt is in his first year at the helm of a program. He’s obviously shown flashes of being a great coach but he’s still got plenty of learning to do. And similar to the coach factor, venue also has be to be brought into the mix when discussing the outcome of this game. If this was taking place in Neyland Stadium at night, give me the Vols, but UT will be traveling to Columbia and it won’t be an easy out.
I think this game will be very close and extremely hard fought. The lead will likely change hands a couple of times and things will be stressful right up to the end. Unfortunately, the team with the more experienced coach and home-field advantage comes out on top in a nailbiter. But, Tennessee’s bowl game hopes will still be very much alive with Charlotte on the horizon.
South Carolina 27