Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics
Tennessee heads to South Carolina looking for its 10th win on the season and its fourth straight win over the Gamecocks.
Each week, the RTI team will provide game predictions for Tennessee’s weekly opponent.
We move on to South Carolina.
Tennessee will be taking on their fourth road opponent this year and subsequently will be playing in their third straight sold-out road game this season as well. The Vols handled the noise well against Pittsburgh, ran LSU out of their own stadium in Death Valley, but stumbled against Georgia’s crowd noise. Heupel said that the team has been doing things this week to prepare for the noise, as expected, but that he believes it’s truly just about executing better under the conditions. Make no mistake that South Carolina will be loud and rowdy to start the game on Saturday night. But, at the same time, make no mistake that Tennessee does have the ability to take the crowd out early.
South Carolina has a hard time stopping the run game. It’s been evidenced all season, but if you really need proof, just look at last week’s contest against Florida. Tennessee should be able to control the game with their running back room and offensive line. Jabari Small says that he is feeling good, Jaylen Wright continues to lead Tennessee on the ground like he has all season, and freshman Dylan Sampson looks like a firecracker on the field with the ball in his hands. That’s not including the Vols’ dynamic running ability with quarterback Hendon Hooker, either.
What’s less fun than being at a game and watching the opposing team just continue to pound the rock for four to six yards at a time? Watching paint dry. Watching grass grow. It’s a short list.
Tennessee is still playing for everything, even though the Vols don’t necessarily control their own destiny. I see the Vols winning this game like they have won most of their other games this season. Tennessee will be overwhelming on offense and aggressive on defense. That’s the path to success, and frankly, South Carolina just doesn’t have the horses to keep up with the Vols. Not that I’m a gambling man, but for what it’s worth, a relatively easy cover.
Prediction: Tennessee 59, South Carolina 19
Tennessee is looking to pick up its 10th win of the season for the first time since 2007 Saturday night in Columbia. The Vols won the Outback Bowl for their 10th win in 2007 and they have a chance to reach that mark with at least two games left on their 2022 schedule. There’s more out there that this Tennessee team wants to and can achieve but reaching double digit wins is quite the achievement.
Standing in Tennessee’s way is a South Carolina team that’s struggled in recent weeks. After defeating Kentucky and Texas A&M in consecutive weeks, the Gamecocks fell at home to Missouri, narrowly beat Vanderbilt and was humiliated at Florida last week. Needless to say, South Carolina has not been playing strong football as of late. I expect Tennessee to be sharp as it looks to built its College Football Playoff resume on the road. Tennessee didn’t handle the crowd noise well at Georgia earlier this month. Williams-Brice Stadium won’t be as loud as Sanford Stadium was but it will still be a challenge for the Vols. Tennessee starting fast would go a long way towards the Vols making the crowd a non factor.
I have a hard time finding the path to South Carolina winning this game. The Gamecocks have a solid pass defense but one that is statistically worse than Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri. South Carolina’s run defense is abysmal, ranking 13th in the SEC while giving up more than 200 yards on the ground a game. Not being able to stop the run is a bad recipe against this Tennessee offense. To have success against Tennessee’s high powered offense you have to make them one dimensional. I don’t see South Carolina doing that. On the other side of the field, South Carolina’s passing attack is extremely limited and one Tennessee’s below average pass defense should be able to handle. Lastly, South Carolina turns it over more than any other team in the SEC while Tennessee forces the second most turnovers in the conference. Without a couple special teams touchdowns, it’s hard to see South Carolina being competitive in this game.
Prediction: Tennessee 52, South Carolina 21