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Let's get down to it...
We discussed this in regard to Connor Shaw a few weeks back, so we'll throw it out again in regard to Brandon Wilds. He obviously has big shoes to fill. What does Brandon Wilds need to do to have a successful debut as the starter?
PORTER: Brandon Wilds has to be Brandon Wilds. He doesn't need to try and be Marcus Lattimore and run like Lattimore. Spurrier and Graham are going to put him into positions where he can do what he does best and not ask him to do anything he can't do. I really want to see him use that strength and elusiveness to get that second and short or third and short first down. Carolina struggled doing that two weeks ago at Mississippi State. If Wilds can pick up 60-70 yards and power through for a touchdown or two on short yardage, it will be a very successful start.
MITCHELL: Wilds responded well to having to replace Lattimore late in the fourth quarter of the Mississippi State game. I'm sure he'll have some butterflies early but I expect him to be fine. For Wilds to be successful he just needs to play within himself and not try to do too much. Obviously, the biggest thing is protecting the football. How big Wilds' day is will be determined by how well the offensive line plays.
LOHD: Expectations should be kept simple as Brandon Wilds (6'1" 225lbs) has had 13 carries for 75 yards and 3 catches for 21 yards in 2011. He should get quality carries as his role in this game is to keep the UT defense honest as they will be cueing in on stopping Connor Shaw's effectiveness. So Wilds needs to make the most of his 12-15 carries that he should get in this game. Like to see 75 yards and a TD from him in this game.
LIFE: For Brandon Wilds to be successful he needs to keep his feet moving and protect the football. We've seen a small sample of what Wilds can do running the football but he'll have his chance this Saturday. He runs hard and has some speed behind that big frame. He's the featured back now so he'll see a good bit of carries on Saturday. The extra carries means extra hits so he will need to protect the football at all costs. We can't afford to give up turnovers on the road in a hostile SEC environment. If he can keep his feet moving and fall forward then I think he's got a chance to have a nice debut. I think somewhere in the 80 yard range would be a nice debut for Brandon Wilds.
Teams have made their living against South Carolina stacking the box against the run to this point in the season. With Lattimore no longer there to compensate for, how do you expect Tennessee to attack South Carolina on defense?
PORTER: I look for them to mix it up and disguise coverages. They will probably want to try and confuse Shaw by showing blitzes and backing off or sending the house at him at times. I also wouldn't be surprised if they try and confuse Wilds by showing blitz on one side and then sending it from the other side. Naturally, I expect them to also key in on Alshon Jeffery. With no Lattimore, he's the only big threat remaining.
MITCHELL: I wouldn't expect teams to sell out against the run quite like they did with Lattimore in the game but with the success some defenses were having slowing the Gamecocks' offense then I'd think much of that would carry over. Tennessee has had some struggles in the secondary though so I'd think the Vols would also use this opportunity to see if they can keep extra guys in coverage and still stop the run without bringing someone extra into the box.
LOHD: A key to UT's defense against USC will be pressure. They want to disrupt Connor Shaw as they don't respect the run game any longer so they will have their ears pinned back trying to pressure Shaw into mistakes.
LIFE: It seems like to me that Tennessee will approach South Carolina by focusing on stopping the aerial attack. South Carolina has been dependent on the run game with Lattimore in the fold but now that he's gone, I would imagine teams will be concerned with stopping the pass. I think Tennessee will try to bring the blitz on Connor Shaw and rattle the young quarterback. I think South Carolina will be dared to run the football at times. If the Gamecocks can get the passing attack going then watch out. They could take control of this ball game especially with the passing game opening up the run game for ball control late in the football game.
While answers like Brandon Wilds and Connor Shaw are obvious, who is there that no one is talking about that will also have to step up to pick up the slack in Lattimore's absence.
PORTER: Has to be Kenny Miles. He's coming off injury that has kept him out for weeks and ball security may be a risk with his wrist. He's got the most experience of all the running backs available and if the game is close the coaches might feel more comfortable with him in there than anyone else. If Wilds struggles, Miles has to be the one to pick up the slack.
MITCHELL: I'll say the entire offensive line. That's an obvious answer but it's true. The line supposedly had a really good bye week and needs to give Wilds some room and Shaw some time. If the o-line has a good game the offense will have a good one.
LOHD: Travian Robertson. This fifth year defensive tackle has to be solid in the middle of the defensive line against the UT Vols. In the last USC outing, the Mississippi State Bulldogs got the bulk of their running yards go straight up the gut and right at USC. The Gamecocks must not allow this against the Vols.
UT is led by tailback Tauren Poole; he ranks as the 10th leading rusher (66 yds. per game) in the SEC. He is not having a standout year but he can hurt you if you allow it. The Vols are a pass-heavy offense. UT is second in the SEC in pass offense and dead last in rush offense. Success in this game begins for USC at the point-of-attack. Travian Robertson must set the agenda early and often as the plug on the defensive line against the Vols.
LIFE: I believe Nick Jones is a person who can step up for this offense without Lattimore around. Alshon Jeffery will now draw the focus of defensive coordinators the rest of the way which could open it up for Nick Jones across the middle of the field. He's been a solid, steady receiver over the last several games and has a bit of elusiveness to his solid hands and route running. Connor Shaw will need to find other playmakers besides Jeffery if this offense hopes to pick up the slack and I think Nick Jones is that guy.
There's been a lot of talk all week long about Justin Worley's recruitment and the fact that there are several Rock Hill players on the South Carolina roster. Overblown storyline or true extra motivation for both sides?
PORTER: I think it's a little bit of an overblown storyline. It might be a little extra motivation for Justin Worley because he was an instate kid that neither of the instate programs offered a scholarship. He may want to prove the Gamecock coaches wrong, but I believe he will be more concerned about what he has to do in his first start to put his team in a position to win the game. For South Carolina, it's just another game. I don't think they're too concerned about who the quarterback is. Jadeveon Clowney may have a little extra motivation after Worley's team defeated South Pointe in the State Championship game, but other than that it's just another team the Gamecocks have to beat to win the East.
MITCHELL: I'm sure those guys are going to want to win this one a little bit extra. But when the ball is kicked off it won't mean much, if anything. Overblown storyline.
that is water under the bridge now. It is time for USC to focus on the Vols and leaving Knoxville with a win as that is all that matters.
LIFE: I think this is one of those overblown storylines for both teams. South Carolina doesn't need any extra motivation based on the fact that they still aren't guaranteed the SEC East title. Plenty to play for and don't need to focus on an opposing player and why they didn't recruit him. Justin Worley is a good player with a strong arm but he's not mobile enough to fit our offensive gameplan. South Carolina looked elsewhere for their quarterback and landed Tanner McEvoy. On the Tennessee side, I think the move of Worley to starter is basically a now or never kind of shot. Matt Simms wasn't getting it done and if UT had hopes of a bowl game they've got to find something to get the offense headed in the right direction. This will be a tough test for the true freshman and one South Carolina will take advantage of very early. No need for motivation for either side on this one.
South Carolina leaves Knoxville with a win if…
PORTER: They don't beat themselves. When Carolina went up there two years ago, the game was over 10 minutes in as the Gamecocks continually shot themselves in the foot and the Vols took advantage of it. The only way Tennessee wins is if their defense gives their offense great field position with turnovers. If the Gamecocks can get on the board early and silence the crowd some they should win.
MITCHELL: If South Carolina wins the turnover battle and gets solid o-line play they should win this game. Turnovers killed them the last time they were in Knoxville as they looked overwhelmed. A good start would help, too, against a Tennessee team that has been beaten and battered.
LOHD: There are three keys in my mind for USC to win this game: First, they must limit UT on third down as Tennessee has converted on 46 of its 95 third-down opportunities (48.4 percent), which is second in the SEC.
Second, USC's pass defense has to come ready to play. Tennessee ranks second in passing offense (261.0), eighth in total offense (350.4), 12th in rushing offense (89.4), and seventh in scoring offense (25.1). Just reading over that tells you that the Gamecocks defense is a key to this game.
Lastly, Connor Shaw is the key on offense for USC. He cannot make mistakes and must succeed in the short passing game to keep the chains moving.
LIFE: South Carolina leaves Knoxville with a win if they score three touchdowns or more. I think this game will be a battle of offenses looking for their new identities. Tennessee will have a tougher time getting it going with a true freshman at quarterback and one of the worst run games in the SEC. South Carolina still has a few weapons left on offense so they are better suited to put some points on the scoreboard.
PORTER: South Carolina HAS to win this game. This is almost a playoff game for Carolina as far as winning the East. They certainly don't want to go into the final two games of the season with Georgia ahead of them in the East needing to beat Arkansas and Florida and needing Georgia to lose to Kentucky or Auburn. In a picture-perfect world the Gamecocks leave Knoxville with a one-game lead over the Dawgs and the tie breaker with two games to go.
With that said, the Gamecocks just have to take care of business. They must beat a struggling Tennessee team with a first time starter at quarterback, even though it's at a place they've only won at once. I think Tennessee will keep it close for a half as they've done most of the season, but the Gamecocks pull away a bit in the end. Gamecocks win 24-10.
MITCHELL: 21-6 South Carolina. I've got a feeling the offense could surprise some despite the loss of Lattimore. But based on results so far this year that's still not likely to happen. Still, I think the defense will give the offense plenty of opportunity to score and they'll do it just enough to pull away in the second half as some other teams have against Tennessee this season.
LOHD: 23-10 SC. USC's defense will prove too much for UT to handle. Look for the USC defensive line to have an impressive game and for Connor Shaw to show maturity in the pocket. Brandon Wilds will do the necessary things but look for a receiver not named Alshon Jeffery to have a big game.
LIFE: South Carolina wins 24-13. I believe we'll see a nice mixture in the run game between Brandon Wilds, Connor Shaw, and Bruce Ellington this weekend and Alshon Jeffery goes over 100 yards receiving. Defense comes up with a few key turnovers off the young freshman quarterback for Tennessee and the Gamecocks take control later in the second half to finish off a road win.
At this point, a one-point victory would be just fine though!