Week 9 - Tennessee at South Carolina

Posted Oct 25, 2012

Week 9 Fearless Prediction – Tennessee at South Carolina

Tennessee (3-4) at South Carolina (6-2) Oct 27, 12:00, ESPN

Here’s The Deal: South Carolina is playing out the string before going to a New Year’s Day bowl somewhere in Florida, while Tennessee is looking for a big win to turn down the flames on the blazing Derek Dooley hot seat.

The Gamecocks went from looking like a true national title contender following a 35-7 obliteration of Georgia on the way to a 6-0 start, but a tough loss to LSU and a rough blowout at Florida eliminated any hope of winning the East and ruined any dreams of playing in the BCS. Can South Carolina find the energy and the fire with nothing truly big to play for? While shooting for back-to-back double-digit win seasons for the first time in school history would be interesting, just getting a win to stop the slide might be enough for now. After winning three of the last four against the Vols, USC is on a roll and can lock up the No. 2 spot in the East with a win and a Georgia loss to Florida.

The Vols can be forgiven for being 3-4 considering the losses have come to Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Alabama, but it’s time to start coming up with some wins. There’s still time to go bowling with an easy November ahead, but at 0-4 in the SEC and with two of the three wins on the season coming against Akron and Georgia State, there hasn’t been anything too positive to get excited about. Beating the Gamecocks wouldn’t exactly turn the program around, but it would calm everyone down. Just having an explosive and entertaining offense isn’t enough.

Why Tennessee Might Win: How much does South Carolina have left in the tank? It came out jacked up against Georgia, had to fight through a road game at LSU, and got embarrassed at Florida. Will the motivation be there? Will the intensity be there? This is a big, big game for Tennessee, and at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter much for USC. If Tyler Bray and the passing game can get off to a hot start, that could be enough to get the momentum rolling that the Gamecocks – if they’re unfocused - won’t be able to overcome.

Why South Carolina Might Win: The Tennessee defense has had big, big problems lately against efficient and effective passers. A.J. McCarron bombed away for the Tide last week hitting 17-of-22 passes for 306 yards and four scores. Mississippi State’s Tyler Russell threw for 308 yards and three touchdowns, and Aaron Murray threw for 286 and two scores meaning the Vol secondary has allowed nine touchdown passes over the last three weeks. Connor Shaw has struggled a bit over the last few weeks and had a tough time against Florida, but when he’s on, he can be among the most efficient and effective passers in the SEC. This week, he should be able to hang with Bray shot for shot.

What To Watch Out For: The Tennessee offensive line has been terrific. South Carolina’s defense begins with a devastating pass rush, but Bray is getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry and the line is doing a great job of keeping him upright. The Vols have given up a grand total of three sacks all season long, and while that hasn’t necessarily meant the offense rolled, it helps. South Carolina’s secondary has been great, but that’s mostly because Jadeveon Clowney and company have been hitting the quarterback; that won’t happen much this week. Bray was hurt for last year’s game, but he completed 9-of-15 passes for 159 yards and two scores with a pick in the loss two seasons ago.

What Will Happen: Will the return of Marcus Lattimore be enough to jump start the struggling Gamecocks? He ran for 184 yards and two scores in the win two years ago, and he’ll get his yards this week – it won’t be enough. Bray will get hot early and will keep up the pace even when South Carolina has a little bit of momentum. This will be Tennessee’s moment with Bray coming up with a strong enough performance to life the team to a key upset win.

CFN Prediction: Tennessee 27 … South Carolina 24
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) South Carolina -14 O/U: 56.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – The Girl, 1 – Don’t Trust The B In Apt. 23): 3.5