Trying to regroup after a bye week, the Tennessee Volunteers play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks in an SEC East showdown. A coach’s job could be on the line as this game gets under way this Saturday at noon EST from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. The game can be seen on ESPN.
Tennessee coach Butch Jones didn’t end up fired last week despite much of the fan base calling for it. It looks like he’ll be sticking around for the rest of the season, although he doesn’t have much offensive talent to work with.
Some of their receivers are promising athletically, but they’ve been plagued by drops in the past and have no one to consistently feed them the ball. That’s because Quinten Dormandy has clearly shown not to be of the same caliber as most SEC quarterbacks, with a 55.5% completion percentage and six interceptions to match six touchdown passes.
John Kelly has been the only major bright spot for the offense, leading the team in rushing and receiving.
While the Volunteers are coming off a huge loss to Georgia that led into the bye week, South Carolina is trying to follow up a win over Arkansas.
They found some offensive spark in the 48-22 beat down of the Razorbacks, with Jake Bentley continuing his transformation into one of the SEC’s best passers. Even without the injured No. 1 WR Deebo Samuel, he’s held the offense together. WR Bryan Edwards and TE Hayden Hurst have played big parts in that continuation as well.
Tennessee is still 2 ½-point favorites at Neyland.
Something must give for this Tennessee team. Sure, they’re playing a team coming off a big win, but South Carolina week-to-week is hard to judge. Hence the close spread.
The Gamecocks won’t have to account for Dormandy as much as other quarterbacks. They will, however, face the task of slowing down Kelly. But if he gets going like he has in most games this season, that will a heavy order for South Carolina.
Against the better running teams the Gamecocks have faced, they’ve been roughed up. Both Kentucky and Texas A&M ran the ball well, and Kelly is a better back than anything either of those teams possess. He’s also a bigger weapon out of the backfield, ranking 11th in the SEC in receptions.
Even with Dormandy struggling, they’ve at least kept him upright, only allowing five sacks all season. It’ll be strength versus weakness, as South Carolina only has 1.67 sacks per-game (ranked 89th). The Gamecocks own offensive front is at a disadvantage with three linemen slowed down by injury.
Tennessee will have its hands full with Bentley. He’s a mobile QB who has a plus-arm and is learning to put some nice touch on his throws. But if Tennessee is capable of consistency in one area, it’s been in the secondary. Don’t let the fact they only have two picks disguise all the passes they’ve defended. They rank 3rd in the nation against the air attack.
Ty’Son Williams will get his yards on the ground, as the Tennessee front has been pushed around for most of the season. But South Carolina focuses on the pass, and will be trying to establish it early and often, which could easily backfire. If it comes down to the run games, like it should, the Volunteers have the advantage.
And if they hope to keep their coach, this is a must-win.