This post concludes our preview of the Tennessee game. Previously, we've discussed the various offensive and defensive matchups.
Three Keys to Victory
Turnovers. In a game whose QBs feature a true freshman who will not only be making his first start but his pass against one of the nation's best big-play defenses and a RS freshman making his third start in a hostile road environment at night, turnovers could play a major role in this game. The QB who makes good decisions with the football and limits the opposing defense's ability to change the complexion of the game with takeaways could make a major difference in this game.
Carolina needs to find a way to get the ball to its playmakers. With Marcus Lattimore out, Carolina will be sporting a new-look offense tomorrow night. Whether or not Brandon Wilds and / or Kenny Miles can make an impact on the game will be one part of the equation to succeeding in life after Lattimore. Another, though, will be finding more creative ways to get our receivers involved. We have a bevy of big-play receivers, but, outside of a few plays in the Kentucky game, we haven't gotten the ball to them enough, perhaps because our passing game has been fairly vanilla. It seems like we always either run WR screens or plays that feature a bunch of deep routes for the receivers, with the RB and TE running safety-valve routes. I'd like to see us try to be a bit more creative when trying to get the ball to our wideouts. Remember a few years back when Tim Tebow killed us in Gainesville by tossing the ball to Percy Harvin on little drag routes? I'd like to see us try that a few times to Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington, or Damiere Byrd. Can you imagine seeing Bruce catch a ball on a drag route on our own 30, Alshon Jeffery making a huge block, and Bruce taking the corner? Yeah, I'd like to see that, because it's a simple play that could go for a long TD, and on the next drive, it would have UT's defense not knowing what to expect.
Improvement on the offensive line. As much as I'd love to see us do some creative things to see if we can find a way to make some big plays, what we really need from our offense in this game is for the offensive line to step up and smack Tennessee in the mouth. The guys have had a week off to rest and lick their wounds, and I have some hope that they're going to step up tomorrow and play well. Sadly, it's a fairly faint hope right now.
Continue reading after the jump.
What It Means
We won't know exactly how our game will affect the SEC East standings until after tomorrow afternoon's UF-UGA game, but regardless, we need to win this game to stay in the divisional driver's seat. Even if UGA loses tomorrow, we have tougher games ahead, and if we lose this one, we'll have absolutely no margin for error. If we lose and UGA wins, then we're in trouble. Big trouble. We need to beat Tennessee, and not just because it would be nice to win in Knoxville for a change.
I'm expecting a defensive struggle in this game. I see absolutely no reason to believe that Tennessee is going to be able to move the ball well against our defense, and while I have some hope that our offense will play better tomorrow, that's probably wishful thinking until we actually see it happen. I do think that we have a bit more potential to make things happen on offense than the Vols, and I also think that our defense is more likely than the Vols' to make that big play that sets up a key score. Therefore, I'm going with the Gamecocks, 20-14.