Is History on Gamecocks' Side?

If you're a believer in the concept of history repeating itself, you'd have to like South Carolina's chances against Tennessee on Saturday.

The last time the Gamecocks defeated the Vols was Oct. 31, 1992. The place was Columbia, S.C. The President was George Bush who was just three days away from losing in his bid for reelection.

The Vols, who were led by first-year quarterback Heath Shuler, were coming off a hard fought 17-10 defeat to Alabama and needed a victory over South Carolina to maintain its edge in the SEC East which was built with early wins over Georgia and Florida. The Vols lost that Halloween showdown 24-23, finished the season 8-3, fired head coach Johnny Majors and eventually accepted a bid to the Hall of Fame Bowl.

On Saturday, the Vols return to Columbia the day before Halloween and a week after a 17-13 victory over Alabama. President George W. Bush is involved in a too-close-to-call reelection bid and the Vols need a win to maintain its lead in the SEC East.

In the 1992 game, Tennessee had an off week after the Alabama loss whereas this year it's South Carolina with the extra week to rest, recover and game plan. However, even without the similarities that exist between 1992 and 2004 meetings, there's plenty of reasons the Vols should beware of the Gamecocks.

South Carolina (5-2, 3-2)) only has two losses in the SEC East and can force a three-way tie by closing with victories over UT, Arkansas and Florida and a Georgia loss to either Florida, Kentucky or Auburn.

Even without that type of incentive, the Gamecocks have been tough for the Vols to beat in recent years. The last four contests between these teams have been decided by a total of 21 points. Last year, UT was a 16-point favorite but had to go to overtime to pull out a 23-20 win.

History aside, there are plenty of reasons to respect South Carolina. The Gamecocks are a solid club across the board with a good defense that is allowing just 11 points per game and is limiting opponents to 110 yards on the ground and 168 yards through the air per game. That's not good news for a Tennessee offense that is currently struggling.

S.C. has a balanced offense that isn't explosive but is very consistent. The Gamecocks are averaging 22.6 points per game and 377.9 total yards per contest with 172 yards on the ground and 205 yards through the air.

Syvelle Newton (41-of-73 for 781 yards and four touchdowns) has taken over at quarterback and has pushed into the top ten among the SEC total offense leaders. Dondrial Pinkins, 6-2, 245, started the season at QB and has completed 32-of-55 passes for 501 yards and two touchdowns. Pinkins is a physical quarterback who is a threat to run.

Demetrius Summers was the nation's No. 1 rated running back prospect two years ago and he burned UT for 160 yards last year as a freshman. He has gained 264 yards this fall in 48 carries for an impressive average of 5.5 yards per run.

Junior wide receiver Troy Williamson, 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, is a big-play threat with 26 catches for 650 yards and six touchdowns. His 25-yard per reception average is among the nation's leaders. Tight end Andy Boyd, 6-5, 260, presents a big target and has 23 catches for 222 yards this season.

Yes, South Carolina presents plenty of challenges for a Tennessee team looking to buck history by extending an 11-game winning streak.

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