University of Tennessee Preview
Location: Knoxville, TN
Head Coach: Derek Dooley (2-5 overall, 0-4 SEC in first season as head coach)
Last Year against Carolina- Tennessee 31-13 over the Gamecocks in Knoxville
Overall record against the Gamecocks: 22-4-2 Tennessee
Famous Alumni: Payton Manning (NFL), Reggie White (NFL Hall of Fame), Todd Helton (MLB), Dolly Parton (Country Music Singer), Min Kao (Founder and CEO of Garmin), and Heath Shuler (NFL & NC Congressman)
USC Offense vs. Tennessee Defense: Tennessee might be 0-4 in the SEC this season, but the Gamecocks should not take them lightly. Tennessee’s overall defense might be ranked last in the SEC giving up on average 403 yards per game, but they have played teams tough in the first half. Against Oregon earlier in the season, they held the nations leading rusher LaMichael James to 27 yards in the first half and went to half with a tied game. Last weekend against Alabama, Tennessee did a good job of slowing down Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson in the first half, and went to halftime only down only 3. In both games, the 2nd half was a different story, giving up 45 consecutive points to the Ducks and 28 second half points to the Crimson Tide last weekend. Coach Dooley will have the Volunteers fired up to play the Gamecocks this Saturday.
As for the Gamecocks, a little bit of good news as freshman running back Marcus Lattimore will make his return from a ankle injury suffered in the second half of the Kentucky game. This should help open up the offense that struggled in the first half against Vandy last weekend in Nashville. The Gamecocks will once again look to Stephen Garcia to have a big day in the air, as Garcia is currently ranked 5th in the nation in passing efficiency. Through 7 games this season Tennessee is giving up on average 241 yards a game in the air and 161 yards on the ground. Compared to the Gamecocks who are averaging 260 yards a game in the air, and 143 yards per game on the ground.
Players to watch out for on the Tennessee defense: Tennessee is lead on defense by LB Nick Reveiz, and their Safety’s Prentiss Waggner and Janzen Jackson. Reveiz who leads the team with 65 tackles, and is currently ranked 3rd in the SEC averaging over 9 tackles a game. Waggner who is 3rd on the team in tackles, also has 2 interceptions so far this season. Janzen Jackson had a career day against the Gamecocks last year with 7 tackles, and a forces fumble on his way to Freshman of the Week in the SEC after the game last year.
Tennessee defense fun fact: The 1939 Vols were the last college football team to hold their opponents scoreless for an entire regular season.
Gamecock Defense vs.Vols Offense: Tennessee’s defense might look bad on paper, but their offense is even worst. Currently in the SEC the Vols are ranked last in rushing offense, second to last in scoring offense, and 10th overall in total offense. Which over half the season already played, the Vols are averaging 320 yards a game and 21 points. In 7 games, the Vols have only managed to pick up 106 first downs all season, which is 2nd to last in the SEC and have only been able to convert 28% of their 3rd down tries. So far this season USC has had 150 first downs and is converting on 54 % of their 3rd down tries.
After the debacle against Kentucky, USC bounced back on defense last weekend against Vandy, holding the Dores to 7 points and 250 yards of total offense. The play of the secondary has taken a lot of heat over the past 2 weeks and will need to step up against if Carolina has any chance of winning the Tennessee game or any other game this season. The Gamecocks are still ranked dead last in the SEC in pass defense but did hold Vandy to only 142 passing yards last weekend. Tennessee will look to exploit the weakness of the secondary, but I have a feeling Gilmore and crew will be ready.
Vols to watch out for on offense: Tennessee is lead on offense by QB Matt Simms, RB Tauren Poole, and TE Luke Stocker. Matt Simms the son of former NFL star Phil Simms is in his first season of play at Tennessee after transferring from Louisville. So far this season Simms has passed for 1253 yards, with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Simms sprained his knee against Alabama last weekend, so look for freshman Tyler Bray to get some snaps against the Gamecocks. So far this season Bray is 16 of 32 for 144 yards with 2 interceptions. Simms favorite target is TE Luke Stocker, who is tied for the team lead in receptions with 19 on the season. Tauren Poole is the Vols leading rusher with 595 yards on the season. He is currently ranked 6th in the SEC, averaging 85 rushing yards a game. The gamecocks will look to stop Poole on the ground and make Simms pass the ball.
Key Stat: Tennessee is currently last in the SEC in sacks allowed, giving up 25 sacks on the season. On the other hand Carolina is currently atop the SEC in getting to the QB, having sacked the opposing QB 24 times. Look for Coach Johnson to have the defense ready to attack Simms all day. Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram should both have big games, getting to Simms a couple times each.
What Might Happen: Tennessee will look to control the game early, to take the home crowd out of the game, but just like the last 2 day games at Williams Brice, Carolina will have success early and often with Lattimore. Look for Garcia to also have a big day hitting Jeffrey and Gurley each for scores. Tennessee’s defense will put up a fight in the first half before laying down in the second half. A close half time score will give way to a Gamecock controlled 2nd half. Look for Carolina to rotate between Maddox and Lattimore to keep the defense guessing. Lattimore will have 100 yards on the ground and Jeffrey will once again pass the century mark in the air.
Prediction: Tennessee 17 Carolina 31
Gamecock fact: Last weekend was the first time since 2006, the Gamecocks have had 2 receivers go over 100 yards receiving in the same game. ( Jeffrey 158 yds, Gurley 109yds)