Three Keys to Victory
3. Pass Defense
Tennessee has actually moved the ball fairly well through the air this year, so our pass defense will need to be on. It would also help for one or two of them to finally reel in an interception; the opportunity might be there, as it appears probable that freshman Tyler Bray will see some time.
This game will present a lot of opportunities for us to move the ball through the air. Tennessee is very young and banged up in the secondary, and our receivers present the kind of challenge that the Vols just won't have much luck defending. I also like our offensive line's chances to hold up a Tennessee pass rush that ranks very poorly in sacks. That means that Garcia will have open receivers and time to throw. If he's on his game, he could lead us to a lot of points and a victory. He also needs to help us win the...
1. Turnover Margin
The Vols have kept it close into the fourth against one SEC opponent this season, LSU. How's they do it? Turnovers. The Tigers moved the ball at will against Tennessee, which should tell you something about how weak Tennessee's usually vaunted defense has been this season. However, Tennessee got some opportune turnovers to keep LSU from converting their yards into points. I'd say the same will hold true here--we're going to move the ball, but the question is whether we're going to put lots of points on the board. Turnovers will be key there.
What It Means
Believe it or not, no one really expects Tennessee to win tomorrow. If that doesn't tell you something about the extent to which this is our best chance ever to win the East, I don't know what will. The Gamecocks are viewed as a good team this year, while the Vols are really reeling. However, don't think they can't win. This game will not be a breather, and our guys will need to come ready to play if we're going to win. And that's exactly what they should be doing. At this point, every game should be considered a playoff for an SEC Championship Game berth, and our coaches and players should act accordingly. A win gets us one step closer to the prize; a loss would be disastrous. This one is also a revenge game of sorts; Carolina will be looking to get a little payback against the Vols after what they did to us last year. I'm sure we would all appreciate that.
34-13 'Cocks. As with other games this year, I wouldn't be surprised if this one is close early, but Carolina's superior talent and depth should allow us to take over in the second half and win fairly convincingly. The only thing that should worry us is lackadaisical play, and after two weeks of road worries, this team will be focused on getting it back in gear.