Devil's advocate

Back in August, Tennessee football fans were eagerly anticipating the South Carolina game, assuming it would be payback for all of those unpleasant things Steve Spurrier said and did to UT while serving as head coach at Florida. Many Vol backers figured the highly touted Big Orange would win by at least 17 points.

Two months later, Tennessee fans aren't quite so eager to face the Evil Genius and his Gamecocks. For one thing, they aren't sure the Vols can SCORE 17 points. That's understandable. Tennessee is averaging just 16.3 points per game. The Vols managed one touchdown against Florida, one offensive touchdown against Georgia and one field goal against Alabama. Not exactly an offensive juggernaut, huh?

South Carolina probably doesn't have enough ability on defense to stop Tennessee but that may not matter. The Vols are unmatched at stopping themselves. Tennessee has elevated self-destructing to an art form. Sometimes it's dropped passes. Sometimes it's penalties. Sometimes it's fumbles. Sometimes it's mental mistakes. Sometimes it's all of the above.

Here are six more reasons South Carolina has an excellent chance to spring the upset Saturday night.

1. The ol' ball coach: Spurrier went 7-2 at Florida in nine meetings with Phillip Fulmer. It didn't matter which team had the home field or which team had the most talent. Spurrier won more often than not.

2. The home field DISADVANTAGE: Inexplicably, Tennessee plays lousy at home. All of the Vols' worst performances the past four years occurred at Neyland Stadium. They lost 30-13 to Florida, 34-14 to Alabama and 26-3 to Miami in 2002, 41-14 to Georgia in 2003, 34-10 to Auburn in 2004 and 27-14 to Georgia this season.

3. The snake-bit factor: When USC's Matt Leinart fumbled at the Notre Dame 1-yard line, the ball squirted sideways and out of bounds, enabling the Trojans to score the winning touchdown one play later. When UT's Cory Anderson fumbled at the Alabama 3-yard line last weekend, the ball squirted forward and through the end zone, giving the Tide a touchback. Simply put: The Vols don't make their own breaks, and they aren't getting any help from Lady Luck.

4. The choke factor: Tennessee's offensive players haven't made a clutch fourth-quarter play in so long they've probably forgotten how. They seem to tense up at crunch time. You get the feeling they're thinking, "I wonder how we'll screw it up this time?"

5. The recent history factor: If LSU hadn't blown a 21-0 lead by suffering a second-half collapse, Tennessee would be 2-4 overall and 1-4 in SEC play. The Vols haven't played a decent game against a decent team all season.

6. The law of averages: South Carolina has lost the last 12 meetings with UT, even though four of the past five games were decided by eight points or less. The Gamecocks are due. Overdue, in fact.

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