Who scores first?

Historically, Tennessee head football coach Phillip Fulmer elects to defer the option when he wins the pre-game coin toss. Tonight might be a good time to consider breaking with tradition and taking the ball first.

In his 13 Southeastern Conference games as South Carolina's head coach, Steve Spurrier has a perfect 7-0 record when the Gamecocks score first. His record when the opponent draws first blood is a pitiful 1-5.

Tennessee scored first in Game 1 vs. California and eventually built a 35-0 lead en route to a 35-18 romp. The Vols spotted Air Force a 7-0 lead in Game 2 but rallied to win 31-30. Tennessee spotted Florida a 7-0 lead in Game 3 and lost 21-20.

A safety enabled UT to score first in Game 4 vs. Marshall, and the Vols ultimately romped 33-7. They struck first again in Game 5 at Memphis – this time on a James Wilhoit field goal – and coasted to a 41-7 victory.

However, the Vols spotted Georgia an early 3-0 lead in Game 6 before roaring back to win 51-33, then spotted Alabama a 3-0 lead in Game 7 before coming from behind to prevail 16-13.

Whereas surrendering the first score seems to be statistically insignificant for UT, it appears to be a harbinger of doom for Carolina. The lone exception occurred last weekend at Vanderbilt. The Commodores scored first but the Cocks stormed back to win 31-13.

For what it's worth, both South Carolina and Tennessee are coming off bizarre outings. The Gamecocks lost four turnovers vs. Vandy but prevailed by limiting the Commodores to 1 of 12 on third-down conversions. The Vols lost three turnovers vs. Alabama but prevailed by limiting the Tide to 3 of 15 on third-down tries.

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