Week 7: Tennessee

The Gamecocks are headed to the decrepit Neyland Stadium to face off against the Champions of Life™. A win would let them match their total number of SEC wins from last year and give them their 3rd ever victory in Knoxville. Here's some thoughts:

  • What can I say about Tennessee football that has not already been said about Afghanistan? The Tennessee program is a mess. Players are fighting each other at practice, with Shy Tuttle 'falling on a helmet' and cracking his orbit and starting offensive lineman Trey Smith getting kicked in the face by starting DE Darrell Taylor. Taylor is suspended indefinitely as a result of the fight. The stuff coming out of Butch Jones's mouth is goofier by the day. Several of the reigning 'Champions of Life' apparently got plenty of 'leadership reps' during the 'best bye week in a very, very long time'. This team has had something like 4 starters quit in the middle of the season the past few years. That is not good, nor is it normal.
  • As a result of the turmoil and the product on the field so far this year Butch Jones is coaching for his job. He seems like a very earnest guy, and his situation almost makes you feel bad for him. But then you remember that time when Jones called a player a 'traitor to the team' for aiding a rape victim and that he'll receive around $10M when Tennessee eventually fires him at some point this year. Don't feel bad for Butch Jones.
  • As for the Tennessee faithful, anyone who wears orange on Saturdays in the Fall deserves every bit of pain and frustration they receive. Syracuse fans are exempt from this (this week only).
  • Word on the street is that Jarrett Guarantano is a bit like Jalen Hurd 2.0, in that he feels very entitled and is not a popular dude in the locker room. He will get his first significant action and start against South Carolina later this evening. I'm pretty sure this is a bad move on the part of Tennessee. Guarantano is currently 12 of 24 for 54 yards and a TD this year, putting him right at 2.3 yards / attempt. That is terrible.
  • What the Carolina defense lacks in talent they make-up for with scheme and unprecedented levels of turnt. They are extremely multiple, which will make it very difficult on an inexperienced QB. They will be able to stack the box to defend against John Kelly, and dare Tennessee to pass the ball with a playbook dumb-ed down for Guarantano's benefit.
  • South Carolina is currently 13th in the nation in turnover margin at +7. Tennessee is tied for 104th at -4. I expect the Gamecocks to win the turnover battle in Knoxville and improve their ranking.
  • The Volunteers are averaging 24.2 points / game in 5 games this season, but they're getting worse by the week. The Gamecocks have consistently held teams below their season average in points and I expect that to continue.
  • On defense the Volunteers are fairly talented. Almost their entire starting DL is composed of former 5-star recruits, although due to injury and suspension depth is close to non-existent at some positions. The are giving up a ton of rushing yards and very few passing yards, but those numbers are skewed from playing teams like Georgia Tech, Florida, and Georgia, who either can't or don't pass much. The Vols will get some stops against a South Carolina offense that has been unable to consistently move the ball so far this year. SC has the better QB by far, however, and in the end that will be the difference in the game.
  • South Carolina has amazingly won every coin toss so far this season (6 in a row). There's less than a 1.6% chance of that occurring I think, but I may be forgetting a factorial or something.
  • The key for SC will be scoring early and taking the crowd out of it. The noon kick-off certainly helps, and Neyland should be much less than full considering they're begging students to come and offering them 8 tickets per person. If SC can get a double-digit lead in the 1st Half I think the boos start raining down on the Volunteers and the place empties out quickly. This would be a great point in the Gamecocks' favor with current Vol commit and South Carolina target Jaycee Horn, who will be at the game for his official visit.
  • Tennessee back-up receiver Tyler Byrd, despite having the same number of catches and TDs (although less yards) than our weak-side linebacker, thought it would be a good idea to taunt one of the best cornerbacks in the conference in Rashad Fenton. See his orginal tweet and Deebo Samuel's response below.
  • Finally, here's what current Tennessee freshman offensive lineman and former Gamecock target K'Rohjn Calbert had to say after his visit to Williams-Brice for the Tennessee game last year:
I wasn’t scared in the sense for my life, but I was scared because there were a lot of things going on in that locker room, nothing illegal, just words being used, ‘We’re going to kill Tennessee.' Really, it was like a riot. It was, who was hungry enough to come out and take somebody’s head off, like literally, like they really wanted to kill Tennessee, like slaughter everybody. It was a savage mentality.

I've got to say that when I read this last year I thought it was one of the greatest and most complimentary things anyone had ever said about the South Carolina program. K'Rohjn obviously was not enthused about the intensity he witnessed and committed to Tennessee shortly thereafter. Tennessee is soft; South Carolina is savage.

Most national and regional analysts predict the Gamecocks to win a close one in Knoxville, and I concur. Surprisingly, Tennessee opened as 2-point favorites, with the line moving towards Tennessee and now sitting at a 3-point spread. Prediction: USC 24 - Tennessee 17

See last year's big win against Tennessee below.