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South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Three Keys and a Prediction

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The Tennessee orange crush is scheduled for an appearance in Columbia. Here’s how we tone it down.

South Carolina v Tennessee Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

13.5. That’s the separation Las Vegas expects for the Tennessee Volunteers against the South Carolina Gamecocks. In a matchup between two opponents seperated by 11 total points the last four games, it’s hard to imagine a margin of victory that wide.

Here’s some thoughts on how the Gamecocks can keep this one close and upset the Volunteers in front of their faithful.

Three Keys to the Game

3. Stretch the field. Those back-to-back fades to the the end zone versus UMass were pretty, weren’t they? With a sporadic rushing attack and offensive line with their hands full, Kurt Roper can’t be afraid to let Bentley take some more shots 20+ yards down field. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the Gamecocks offense to control the clock and methodically move the ball down field each and every possession, so looking for the big play isn’t the worst of ideas, especially with a fully healthy receiving corps.

2. Create and sustain a pass rush. With nine interceptions and five fumbles on just 14 touchdown passes, I like Joshua Dobbs’ turnover ratio. The Tennessee offensive line is finally getting healthy again after the bye week, with all original starters returning, so the Gamecocks d-line is going to have to take physicality to heart and create a force early and sustain it through the fourth quarter against a unit that may take a possession or two getting back up to game speed. If they succeed, they’ll come face-to-face with a quarterback that’s had trouble maintaining possession of the ball in various patches of this season.

1. Silence Barnett. South Carolina was granted a wish when an ankle injury sidelined Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett earlier this month as the Gamecocks offensive line didn’t have to worry about the league’s best defensive end. This weekend, though, the SEC’s second most dangerous pass rusher comes to town in Derek Barnett. During a season when the Vols defense has lost their best linebacker in Jalen Reeves-Maybin and top defensive back Cam Sutton to injury, Barnett has been a steady force up front. The 6-3, 265 pound end accounts for 11.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks and 2 forced fumbles through seven games. Scary enough before you remember he’ll be chasing an 18-year old making his second collegiate start.

Prediction

In front of a crowd hungry for primetime even more so than they were before the Georgia game was re-scheduled, this will be the first time Will Muschamp and his team are presented with all that Williams-Brice has to offer. It’s been awhile since the fanbase has been treated with a rivalry-esque, night game matchup and it’ll be important for them to remain tuned in from start to finish.

If the crowd is all there in the fourth and somehow inspires the defense to create the takeaway they’ve had success finding, it might be just the spark to scare away the Volunteers. This one will be decided on how much the Gamecocks have left in the tank late and if they can keep it close and finish it off.

South Carolina 23 - Tennessee 21