Anthem Roundtable: Tennessee

Gamecock Anthem returns the weekly feature "Anthem Roundtable" as we take a look at Tennessee. The Volunteers bring a high-powered offense to Columbia against the Gamecocks top-notch defense.

The Anthem Roundtable is back another week as the Gamecocks finally return home hoping to get back to their winning ways against the Tennessee Volunteers. The recent two-game slide has all but taken away the opportunity at an SEC Championship this season but the Gamecocks still have plenty left to play for and it starts this weekend against the Volunteers.

Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Adam Garrett and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and The Meat Locker Sports.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

We'll get started with this week's edition of The Anthem Roundtable...



Tennessee has had the same starting five on the offensive line for all seven games so far this season. As a result, they've only allowed three sacks all season long. How does South Carolina matchup against their offensive line and can they bring pressure this weekend?


PORTER: The offensive line is certainly the strong aspect of the Tennessee football team while the defensive line is clearly the strongest aspect of Carolina. The defensive front has proven all year that they can affect the quarterback even if they don't get to him. They likely won't get the sacks that they normally get, but they will certainly have plenty of chances to affect Tyler Bray.

GARRETT: The Gamecocks defensive line will certainly be up to the challenge this Saturday. Not many people have been able to stop Jadeveon Clowney this year and don't think Tennessee will be able to do the same. Tyler Bray isn't the most mobile quarterback out there so some steady pressure to force him out of his comfort zone should help the Gamecocks defense out as a whole. I don't envision the Gamecocks throwing up a high sack total this weekend but wouldn't be surprised if they matched Tennessee's season total of three sacks allowed this Saturday.

LOHD: The South Carolina defensive front has to find success in disrupting the flow of the UT offense. As noted, it is hard to generate a quarterback sack but a lot of times constant pressure can be just as successful for the defense. There lies what USC must do – constant pressure. The interior of the line must get a push and demand one-n-one blocking as this will free up the rush off the edge from Clowney/Taylor. So to answer the question – yes, as I feel the USC D line will step up play this weekend.

MLS: The Tennessee offensive line deserves a lot of credit, it's a talented experienced unit. If anybody can give them a run for their money, it's going to be Jadeveon Clowney. Expect the pressure to come early and if we're unsuccessful, we can assume that Lorenzo Ward will adjust his gameplan accordingly. It's hard to predict whether the Gamecocks can outmatch the Volunteers O-line, but with the success we've had this season, they have as good a chance as anybody.

Steve Spurrier has said that this is Connor Shaw's game regardless of how he performs. How do you think the junior will perform this weekend against Tennessee?


PORTER: Shaw has always performed well and efficiently at home throughout his career. Against a Tennessee defense that is just plain bad, there is no reason to believe that won't continue. I've been as critical as anybody of Shaw's performance the last two weeks and on the road in general. The fact of the matter is that he went up against two of the best defenses in the country. Shaw will be fine this week and there's no reason to believe he won't perform well.

GARRETT: I'm looking for Connor Shaw to have a bounce back performance this weekend. The big thing that will give Shaw confidence is the home crowd. The noise level won't be a factor here like it has been the past two weeks and he should step back to a level we've become accustomed to in the past. Tennessee's defense isn't the best in the country so they'll be opportunities for Shaw to use his arms and legs this weekend.

LOHD: Connor Shaw can only get better right? Most agree that Shaw under center presents the best chance for USC to win SEC games so Shaw has to bring his best each series. Opposing teams from this point forward know the recipe for a win versus Carolina and that is "stop the USC run game, make Shaw beat you." So for USC to win, then Shaw has to play his best which means find success via the pass. I think he will get it done and look for him to get back on track this game.

MLS: As it should be. Connor Shaw's success so far this season came as no surprise, but when he faltered he showed that he has his weaknesses. We have to remember that this is Connor Shaw's second season and he still has a lot of learning to do. He was expected to go on the road to LSU and Florida and play the same way he has been leading up to these games. That's a tall order. Shaw still has a lot to learn still as a starting quarterback, but at home I think he gets his bearings and puts together a nice ball game.

Rock Hill native Cordarrelle Patterson is a versatile threat for the Vols. He's averaging 34.8 yards per kickoff return this season. Given South Carolina's issues on kickoff coverage, can they contain Patterson and his speed?


PORTER: Joe Robinson said only a fool would kick to Patterson and he may be a fool. With Patterson's ability to return the ball and South Carolina's ineptness to perform well on kickoffs, they may just be better off booting the ball out of bounds every time. Kicking to Patterson is a disaster waiting to happen. If they continuously kick the ball off to Patterson, Damiere Byrd better be ready to prevent another touchdown return.

GARRETT: It's going to be tough. Patterson has turned out to be a high level performer out of junior college and Tennessee has a legit weapon in his versatility. South Carolina will need to do a much better job of playing their assignments on kickoff coverage and don't be surprised if you see a few starters on the coverage team this weekend. South Carolina can't avoid another big return or two this weekend with a high-powered offense like Tennessee's that can score quickly. A sound strategy would be to avoid kicking the ball to Patterson but the inconsistency on kick returns will likely give him a return or two. The Gamecocks better be ready.

LOHD: God let's hope so. USC has to limit mistakes in this game and not beat themselves as they have done two weeks in a row. The Gamecocks should use more starters on special teams as you do not want this unit to be a liability towards the goal of winning.

MLS: Cordarrelle Patterson is a bad dude. He was the No. 1 JUCO receiver and he has certainly showed why this season. I don't see Patterson breaking one this week against the Gamecocks, but I do see him being more than capable of setting the Volunteers for decent field position on kickoff returns. Spurrier said it best on Thursday when he said our special teams on defending kickoff returns was "not very good." We need to put that statement to bed and contain Patterson.

With Tennessee's defense giving up 33.3 points per game and 445.4 yards of total offense, is this the week the Gamecocks offense comes alive?


PORTER: It better. If South Carolina struggles to move the ball at home against a terrible defense, November will be brutal. Both Arkansas and Clemson can move the ball well enough to make up for some defensive deficiencies they have and Wofford just won't give the ball up if they can get their option attack going. If the offense cannot get the job done against Tennessee, a 1-2 November is possible.

GARRETT: This is a big game. Not only does it help South Carolina keep its goals alive, it also is a chance for the offense to get back on track. The Gamecocks need some confidence heading into the bye week next weekend and some positive momentum could help go a long way towards to close of the season. Look for Marcus Lattimore to have a big day on the ground for the Gamecocks which should drive the offense to post much better numbers than what we've seen recently.

LOHD: This goes back to the Connor Shaw question and why I feel he will provide a better offensive attack for USC that ends in a South Carolina win. The UT defense has issues and USC must exploit them.

MLS: Absolutely. They are a frustrated unit looking to rebound after being snuffed out for two straight contests. The crowd and comfort of Billy Brice should be a nice motivating factor.

Tennessee's Tyler Bray has been turnover prone thus far in 2012 with nine interceptions thrown already. Head coach Derek Dooley said if Bray turns the ball over more, he'll pull him in favor of backup Justin Worley. Will South Carolina get to see Worley this weekend if Bray struggles?


PORTER: Bray's troubles hit an all-time low this past weekend when he refused to talk to media following the loss to Alabama. If Tennessee falls behind and Bray tosses up gifts to the Carolina secondary, Dooley will pull Bray if anything than to just prove a point that he is replaceable.

GARRETT: This is a crucial game for both teams but Tennessee needs Bray to win. It's as simple as that. Dooley may be trying to give his quarterback something to focus on but at the end of the day, Bray needs to see the field for Tennessee to win. If Worley makes it in the game it's because of two reasons – Tennessee is getting blown out of the water by USC or the Volunteers are giving the Gamecocks a beatdown.

LOHD: I lean towards a no on this question. I feel Bray will play the entire game as he presents the best chance for a Vols upset. He is likely to throw one pick in this game but that does not cause Dooley, who has a "hot seat," to pull the trigger.

MLS: Bray gives the Volunteers the best chance to beat South Carolina. We saw Worley last season when Bray was injured and he was an ugly 10-26 for 105 yards and 2 interceptions. Dooley's statement, in my opinion is just being used as a motivational tool for the struggling Bray. Unless it's a blowout early, I'd expect to see Tyler Bray on the field at least into the start of the 4th quarter.

Will this be the last time Derek Dooley faces the Gamecocks as the Tennessee head coach?


PORTER: I'm probably in the minority, but I don't think so. Tennessee just cannot afford another buyout or their fourth coach in five seasons. Plus, they found out two years ago that they just can't go out and find anybody they want. Tennessee is not the dream job it was even six or seven years ago. They will find it very difficult to buy out Dooley and have enough to attract a good coach. Next year could be like John Fox's last season as Carolina Panthers head coach. Everybody knows he isn't going to make it another year and shouldn't even be the coach this year, but the team just can't afford to pay the buyout. Look for Dooley to be back on the sidelines again next season and Tennessee struggles again.

GARRETT: I'm starting to believe the rumors and think Dooley won't be on the sidelines for Tennessee next year. Yes, Dooley's contract and those of his assistants would cost Tennessee a lot of money to buyout, but if they can land a coach like Jon Gruden now, they may just have to eat those contracts and make a go at it. I'll say Dooley is let go, Tennessee throws a ton of money at Gruden and he turns them down.

LOHD: No. He will get one more year to show there is more to his coaching than orange pants.

MLS: I don't think so. I think Dooley is a good coach who has done well with the mess that was left behind Lane Kiffin. Will Dooley ever be great? Probably not. He's been terrible against ranked opponents and his record shows that. But, he should given another shot next season to see what he can put together. Maybe I'm completely off my rocker, but I like the guy and think he deserves a fair shot.

Prediction?


PORTER: South Carolina gets back on track offensively and in a big way. Gamecocks cruise 38-14.

GARRETT: I think Carolina's offense gets some momentum on their side and will outlast Tennessee's offense thanks to some big stops by the Gamecock defense late in the game. South Carolina wins 31-21.

LOHD: The Gamecocks defeat the Vols by the score of 34-17.

MLS: 34-17 in favor of the Gamecocks

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