The South Carolina Gamecocks travel to Rocky Top tomorrow for their annual spooky szn matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers, who are similarly fed up with SEC officiating after their own near-miss with a top-10 upset. As has usually been the case for the past several years, this a big game for both teams. Here’s how the GABA gang thinks it all plays out.
Kody: Games against Tennessee stress me out so much. They’re always important -- and have taken on an added weight lately for bowl eligibility purposes -- and they always seem to come down to the final play. Knoxville, in particular, has been an especially cursed venue for the Gamecocks, and so once again, I expect a nailbiter. Both teams got off to bad starts they’d rather forget, but both teams have managed to bounce back and defy some of the very, very low expectations that were set after those losses to North Carolina and Georgia State. What gives me a little confidence, however, is the fact that Jarrett Guarantano is the likely starter for UT, and a quarterback the Gamecocks have enjoyed success against. The defense -- and the defensive line, in particular -- is playing at a high level right now, and the running game has been impressive as well. Those factors give me some faith that South Carolina can come out of Neyland with a win, but judging by history, it’ll still be by the skin of their teeth. I’ll go 21-17 USC.
DC3: As per my usual, I’m going to harp on the Gamecocks ability to protect the pocket and, thus, Ryan Hilinski. So much of the offensive success hinges on his ability to settle his feet and make a decision. He’s a great talent, but his weakness is in his feet. I cannot stress enough how important it will be playing is a very hostile environment. I cannot abide that dumb stadium but it is big and loud and it’s not a fun place to play when you’re out of sync. This game is probably the most important conference game on the schedule. I am never at ease when it comes to games against UT. Their fans drive me nuts, the whole Fulmer nonsense drives me nuts, the city is strange, and their colors drive me to the brink. The football team stinks, but we all know what happens when seemingly terrible football teams play South Carolina. This one comes down to the wire in an unnecessary fashion. Cocks win 27-24.
Matt: One thing is certain: this game shouldn’t be close. One thing is also sadly true: it most likely will be. Despite the gap in talent, the Gamecocks usually struggle specifically against Tennessee, although they ultimately have been able to escape with a W in recent years. If Jarrett Guarantano’s name gets called at quarterback for Tennessee, I see this USC defense forcing him to make mistakes as they did against Fromm and Trask (before the refs changed the course of the game, of course). I have all the confidence in the world that this defense will give the Tennessee offense nightmares, but that means that the offense needs to be competent as well to give the Gamecocks a chance. Ryan Hilinski was visibly hobbled last week against Florida and we’ll see if another week in the books got him any more healthy. I don’t think this game will follow the recent trend of being within a field goal, but I do expect it to be closer than it should. Cocks take this one 23-16.
Katie: To echo all the guys, this game will probably be unpleasant and way too close for comfort, because that’s how South Carolina-Tennessee games seem to go. I of course predict that the Gamecocks will come away with a win, though, because that’s what I do here. Since Tennessee isn’t great this season, it would be nice to see USC come out and dominate a conference foe, but maybe I shouldn’t get greedy, because the Gamecocks aren’t exactly great this season either. Fingers crossed this game is more of a treat than a trick for us, tho (kinda looking at you, refs).