Last week we said Arkansas was going to be a terrible match up for South Carolina.
From the numbers we gathered, I still think we were right. Bill Connelly’s S&P+ metrics suggested the Gamecocks had a 40 percent chance to beat Arkansas because what Arkansas did on offense (sustaining long drives, running the ball, efficient QB) was a perfect antidote for what South Carolina did on defense (prevent big plays, allow everything underneath).
But three defensive touchdowns and four Arkansas turnovers totally flipped the established narrative, leading to South Carolina dropping a 48-23 elbow on the Razorback’s season and Bret Bielema’s job security. Essentially, you really don’t know what to expect from South Carolina week-to-week.
This week presents a unique challenge for South Carolina as they travel to Knoxville for an always dreadful match up with Tennessee. Tennessee and South Carolina have played each other every year since 1992 and most of those results have been detrimental to South Carolina — even the wins.
In 2012 South Carolina lost Marcus Lattimore forever in a win over Tennessee, in 2011 South Carolina was beat up in a 14-3 win which led to a 44-28 dismantling the next week, in 2008 South Carolina won triumphantly 27-6 but lost every game thereafter.
The losses have always been tough too. In the 2006, 2007 and 2009 losses South Carolina committed a combined 11 turnovers in games decided by a total of 28 points (2009 wasn’t all that close). 2007, 2013 and 2014 were all lost on field goals either made by Tennessee or missed by South Carolina.
And don’t even get me started on the 2015 game.
Yeah, that’s how South Carolina lost a 27-24 game. Gross.
Simply put, Tennessee has been a thorn in the side of South Carolina for a long time now. That’s one of the reasons last season’s 24-21 upset was such a jubilant win for the Gamecocks. It wasn’t just a crucial win towards bowl eligibility, it expelled some pent up demons from 25 years of history between the two sides.
This season the narrative coming in seems to surround Butch Jones — the embattled Tennessee head coach who can’t ever seem to say the right thing in front of a microphone. Whether it’s “Champions of Life” or “Leadership reps” Jones can’t ever say the thing that’ll take the heat off his back.
How bad is the heat? Type Butch Jones into your Twitter search bar and this is just the start of what pops up:
IF I WAKE UP TO BUTCH JONES BEING FIRED IT WILL BE THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE— Harrison Barron (@harrison_barron) October 6, 2017
Butch Jones once had Riley Ferguson, Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs on the same roster...— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) October 7, 2017
...and started Justin Worley.
Records against SEC West opponents:— Vol Herald (@VolHerald) October 8, 2017
Derek Dooley: 1-7
Butch Jones: 0-8
While I’ll be the first to admit the idea of Chip Kelly going to Tennessee is ridiculous, all of the above is the unpleasent noise surrounding the Vols following their 41-0 loss to Georgia. It’s pretty well deserved too when you look at how Tennessee has performed this season.
The Vols were fortunate to beat Georgia Tech in the opener and struggled to separate themselves from a lowly UMass — leaving their only convincing win over FCS Indiana State. The loss to Florida on that last minute pass was inexcusable and I don’t need to go over the Georgia debacle again.
Tennessee has yet to find any consistency at quarterback or on offense outside their very talented running back John Kelly. The defense has been able to keep them in games when they’re not giving up long drives. Sound familiar?
South Carolina and Tennessee are essentially the same team with three exceptions: South Carolina has an established QB, Tennessee has been incredibly unlucky with turnovers and Tennessee has recruited much better over a three year span.
On paper this should be a win for Tennessee, but considering the momentum these sides are carrying into today’s game who knows what will happen. After all, this is South Carolina we’re talking about.
How to watch South Carolina vs. Tennessee today
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Place: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.
Announcers: Mike Patrick, Tommy Tuberville
Rocky Top Talk (SBN Tennessee Blog)