KICKOFF: Saturday, 12:21 ET
SITE: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
TV: SEC Network
SERIES: Tennessee leads 24-4-2 (last meeting, 2009, Tennessee 31-13)
RECORDS: Tennessee 2-5, 0-4; South Carolina 5-2, 3-2
POLLS: South Carolina (17 AP, 17 USA Today)
PREDICTION: South Carolina 24-14
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- For Tennessee: Getting off to a quick start is essential. The Vols don't have the depth or the offensive wherewithal to mount second-half rallies. It would also help if the Vols could hassle QB Stephen Garcia with the pass rush. Finally, they need a big play or two from the special teams, maybe even a score.
-- For South Carolina: Continue doing what it did up until the time freshman RB Marcus Lattimore injured his ankle early in the third quarter against Kentucky. The team has rushed the ball better than at any other time in recent years, and QB Stephen Garcia has played his best football when he's had several big, strong wide receivers to throw to.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- TB Tauren Poole has been a source of satisfaction for Tennessee offensively with his quick, decisive runs. But inconsistent accuracy by QBs Matt Simms and Tyler Bray, along with an endless string of injuries in a youthful offensive line, has sabotaged this unit's hopes for consistency.
Besides a lack of quality depth on defense, another recent issue has been the cornerbacks' inability to contain top receivers like A.J. Green and Julio Jones. One can bet WR Alshon Jeffery is looking forward to going up against the Vols this week, especially if they can't mount a pass rush on QB Stephen Garcia.
South Carolina is coming off its most productive game offensively, from a statistical standpoint. The Gamecocks had 484 yards of total offense with 355 coming through the air i nthe win over Vanderbilt. QB Stephen Garcia has completed 72.1 percent of his passes for the season. RB Marcus Lattimore, who should return to the lineup, is the team's leading rusher and is on pace to become South Carolina's all-time leader in touchdowns scored in a season. He has 12 (10 on the ground and two through the air), which is just four behind the record set by Harold Green in 1987.
The defense held Vanderbilt to 250 yards of total offense, including 70 yards and only three first downs in the second half. The Commodores did not cross the 50-yard line in the final two quarters until their final offensive play of the game. The Gamecocks have 24 sacks through their first seven games, an average of 3.43 per contest. They lead the SEC in both overall total and average. They rank fifth nationally in sacks per game. Sophomore SW Devin Taylor leads the team with 6.5 sacks, followed by DT/DE Melvin Ingram with 4.5.
Volunteers: South Carolina will be the fifth ranked opponent the Volunteers have played this season. They're 0-4 against Oregon, Florida, LSU and Alabama, losing by a combined score of 136-54. ... Tennessee must reverse a recent trend of losing the turnover battle. It has made five turnovers in the last two games while forcing none. ... RT Ja'Wuan James has started all seven games for the Vols. He's one of only nine true freshmen among FBS teams to start at offensive tackle and the only one from the SEC. ... The Vols have played 16 true freshmen this season, third-most in the country. Only Air Force and Florida, who each have used 17, have used more. ... RB Tauren Poole has four 100-yard rushing games this season. ... The Volunteers haven't been blanked since Sept. 17, 1994 (31-0 to Florida) and have scored in 204 consecutive games. ... Senior TE Luke Stocker is tied for the team lead in receptions with 19, which are good for 194 receiving yard (fourth on the team). ... Sophomore SS Prentiss Wagger has two interceptions and returned both for touchdowns.
Gamecocks: For the first time in school history, South Carolina had a 100-yard rusher and two 100-yard receivers in the same game. RB Brian Maddox rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown, and WR Alshon Jeffery had nine catches for 158 yards and a touchdown and WR Tori Gurley had 13 receptions for 109 yards and a score. ... It is the second time this season the Gamecocks have had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. RB Marcus Lattimore rushed for 182 yards and Jeffery had 103 receiving yards in a 17-6 win over Georgia. ... Gurley's career high 13 receptions tied for second most in a single game in South Carolina history. It was one reception shy of the record set by Kenny McKinley against Tennessee in 2007 and Zola Davis against Vanderbilt in 1998. Gurley's previous single-game high was four catches, which he accomplished on six occasions. ... Jeffery has had more than 100 receiving yards in five of South Carolina's seven games. The sophomore now has 845 receiving yards this season and 1,608 in his career. He ranks 10th all-time in that category for the Gamecocks. He leads the SEC and is third nationally in average receiving yards per game with 121.1. ... QB Stephen Garcia completed a career-high 31 passes against Vanderbilt in 39 attempts for 355 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 5,375 career passing yards. ... Sophomore DE Devin Taylor had two sacks and three tackles for loss against Vanderbilt. He now has 8.5 career sacks (6.5 this season) and 15.5 career tackles for loss (10 this season).
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Tyler Bray -- In his first meaningful playing time against a top defense, Bray predictably struggled, hitting just five of 14 passes. Bray will probably see some playing time this week and must prove he can run the offense better, as well as display better accuracy, against a quality opponent.
TB Tauren Poole -- He became the first opponent in 41 games to rush for more than 100 yards against Alabama, finishing with 117. A similar performance is necessary for Tennessee to have any shot at a win.
CB Art Evans -- The team's top cover corner has another difficult assignment against 6-4 Alshun Jeffery. While Evans hasn't always played badly in the last two games, he's come up short plenty of times against Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones.
QB Stephen Garcia -- There have been a few mistakes so far, but Garcia has played better than even coach Steve Spurrier could have hoped. With a 170.2 efficiency rating that ranks second in the SEC and fifth nationally, he needs to help the offense jump on a struggling Tennessee team early and take away its will.
RB Marcus Lattimore -- The return of the freshman running back means Tennessee has to put more players in the box in an attempt to stop him. That should help to open up the passing game, with Alshon Jeffery leading the way. Lattimore has also proved to be a threat catching passes out of the backfield, where he has 12 receptions and has scored two touchdowns.
DE Devin Taylor -- The sophomore has been the most consistent performer on the line, leading the team with 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He must continue to wreak havoc in order to help out a secondary that has struggled to stop the pass.
RB Marcus Lattimore (ankle, will play), DT Melvin Ingram (hand, will play), LB Shaq Wilson (hamstring, out), DE Chas Sutton (hand, questionable).