KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier isn’t ready to crown his team yet.
“We’ve not done enough to think we’re hot stuff yet,” Spurrier said. “We’re not.”
Spurrier realizes the 11th-ranked Gamecocks have a tricky test today when they put their four-game winning streak on the line at Tennessee. The Volunteers nearly stunned Georgia in its last game and scared the heck out of South Carolina in Columbia a year ago.
“We know we’ve got to play well to beat Tennessee,” Spurrier said. “We have to play really well.”
Tennessee (3-3, 0-2 SEC) had last week off after falling 34-31 in overtime two weeks ago to No. 15 Georgia, which was ranked sixth at the time of the game. The break gave the Vols extra time to study South Carolina (5-1, 3-1).
“All you have to do is look at their results, and they speak volumes,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said.
South Carolina is coming off a 52-7 victory at Arkansas that represented its most dominant performance of the season. South Carolina gained 537 total yards against Arkansas while allowing only 30 yards passing.
Tennessee has lost 19 straight games against ranked opponents and has dropped 16 of its last 18 SEC contests, but the Vols have reason to believe they could pull the upset.
Last year against South Carolina, Tennessee was driving for a potential game-tying or go-ahead score until Jadeveon Clowney recorded a sack and forced a fumble to preserve the Gamecocks’ 38-35 victory.
Clowney vs. Richardson
Clowney will spend at least part of the day lining up against Tennessee offensive tackle Antonio “Tiny” Richardson in a matchup of potential first-round draft picks. Richardson held Clowney in check for most of last year’s game before giving up that game-clinching sack. Richardson and the entire Tennessee offensive line must make sure quarterback Justin Worley has enough time.
South Carolina’s Shaw
The South Carolina quarterback ranks seventh nationally in passing efficiency and hasn’t thrown an interception all season in 124 pass attempts. Shaw will face a Tennessee defense that has picked off 11 passes to rank sixth nationally.
Dueling running backs
South Carolina’s Mike Davis has rushed for 742 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He ranks 10th nationally and leads the SEC with 123.7 yards rushing per game. Tennessee’s Rajion Neal has rushed for 616 yards and seven touchdowns, and he has 317 yards over his last two games.
Not only is Shaw an efficient passer, he also can hurt defenses with his running ability. Shaw has rushed for 319 yards on 74 carries this season. Tennessee’s defense has struggled to slow down mobile quarterbacks such as Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Florida’s Tyler Murphy this season. Even Georgia’s Aaron Murray, more of a classic dropback passer, had a 57-yard run against the Vols.
Controlling the clock
South Carolina maintained possession for 43 minutes, 25 seconds in its blowout of Arkansas last week. Arkansas’ offense ran just 37 plays in the entire game. Tennessee’s offense must sustain some long drives and prevent South Carolina from controlling possession as thoroughly as it did last week.