Photo by Jerry Bowen/ The Daily Gamecock
Tennessee will have an opportunity for revenge in Week five when South Carolina comes to take on the Vols in Neyland Stadium on September 30.
There’s no need to remind anyone of how Tennessee’s trip to Columbia went. Let’s just say lots of Vols fans, and likely Tennessee themselves, have this one circled on the calendar.
Shane Beamer is entering his third season as head coach for the Gamecocks, just like Josh Heupel is at Tennessee. South Carolina has gone 15-11 in two years under Beamer, with their best stretch coming at the end of last season.
Let’s take a closer look at Beamer’s program as they look to build off of a strong 2022 finish.
What happened in 2022
South Carolina started the season on a sour note. Incoming transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler was struggling, and the Gamecocks found themselves quickly 1-2 after double-digit losses to Arkansas and Georgia.
Things went better in the middle part of the season, but a Week 9 loss to Missouri and Week 11 loss to a struggling Florida team put the Gamecocks in danger of failing to reach bowl eligibility.
Tennessee and Clemson were the last two games on the schedule, and each team had only one loss.
However, Spencer Rattler and co. diced up Tennessee’s defense on a late November night in Columbia before knocking off Clemson in a thrilling 31-30 road win the following week.
A ho-hum, and borderline disappointing, season turned into something incredibly impressive in the snap of the fingers.
The Gamecocks did fall short to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, but most will remember South Carolina’s last two performances of the regular season when thinking back to the 2022 Gamecocks.
2023 Offense Outlook
New offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains comes in from Arkansas in hopes to lead a more consistent South Carolina offense this fall.
Quarterback Spencer Rattler returns for his fifth season of college football. While this was huge news for the Gamecocks, South Carolina needs Rattler to be more consistent if they want to take a step forward offensively.
Rattler may have finished the season on fire last year, but entering the Tennessee game, he had only eight touchdowns and nine interceptions on the season.
Another piece of good news for South Carolina was that star receiver Antwane ‘Juice’ Wells Jr. returned. The Gamecocks lost quite a few pieces to the portal, including tight end Jaheim Bell, but they returned their top pass-catching option.
Arguably the biggest question mark for the Gamecocks’ offense is running back. Juju McDowell, who managed just 219 yards last year, is their top returning rusher. Due to lack of depth at the position, Dakereon Joyner moved to a full-time backfield role, as well.
Throw in injuries and departures along the offensive line, Loggains’ offense may be forced to be a bit one-dimensional, meaning a lot of pressure will be on Rattler’s shoulders if the Gamecocks are going to be dangerous offensively.
More From RTI: Elite EDGE Rusher, Tennessee Target Jordan Ross Reveals Imminent Commitment Date
2023 Defense Outlook
South Carolina will be strong once again in the secondary.
Safeties Nick Emmanwori and DQ Smith enter their sophomore seasons after great year ones, and veterans Marcellas Dial and David Spaulding round out a strong backend.
The Gamecocks are their weakest against the run. And they may be worse in 2023 than they were in 2022.
South Carolina lost a lot of talent along the D-line and at linebacker, and although there are a few names to keep an eye on, opposing teams will do most of their damage against the USC defense on the ground.
The script sets up nicely for Tennessee: second straight week at home, sour taste in the mouth from last season, likely a day game, etc.
One shouldn’t automatically think the 2023 Tennessee–South Carolina matchup will be like the beatdown the Vols handed the Gamecocks in 2021. Spencer Rattler is an above-average quarterback who can have a monster performance at any moment’s notice.
But ultimately, Tennessee’s roster is much better, their defense is clearly better, and they have home-field advantage. I’ll take the Big Orange to win by a margin closer than how the game actually felt.
Tennessee 38, South Carolina 28