Tennessee vs. South Carolina — The Volquest staff picks

Tennessee returns to the road looking to impress on a Saturday night affair in Columbia, South Carolina. The Vols at 9-1 remained 5th in the college football playoff standings this week and with plenty of football left to be played around the country, Josh Heupel’s club is in a good spot. Quarterback Hendon Hooker who had 405 yards of offense last week in a 66-24 win over Missouri is looking to bolster his Heisman Trophy campaign.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is trying to get back on track having lost 2 of their last 3 including last week’s 38-6 manhandling by Florida.

The Volquest staff weighs in with their weekly picks.

Brent’s pick

Last week, I missed Missouri’s point total by 7 and Tennessee by 24. I’m obviously horrible at score predictions.

Here’s what I know about this game this week — Vols win.

Tennessee has too much to play for. Tennessee is a football team that’s continuing to improve individually and that’s making them better on both sides of the ball. You look at the play of Brandon Turnage over the last few weeks. The play of Dylan Sampson last week and Tennessee is continuing to grow.

I think the Vols handle crowd noise better this week than they did at Georgia. I think they get better play at left tackle this week than they did last week and I don’t see Spencer Rattler running for 100 yards which was basically Missouri’s only success a week ago.

Shane Beamer is going to take chances. He will roll the dice on fourth down and in the kicking game. Tennessee must be prepared for anything that way.

But South Carolina gave up over 500 yards to Florida last week. They allowed the Gators to rush for over 300 yards. The Gamecocks struggle against the run which will mean one on one opportunities on the outside because Carolina will have to commit more bodies to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

The Vols are on a mission to impress and the goal of an 11 win season is a big one for this team.

Vols roll

Tennessee 52 South Carolina 17

Austin’s pick

This is going to be a beatdown in my opinion. South Carolina is not good. Tennessee has so much to play for and is motivated.

Over the years it’s been a place where Tennessee has lost games in Columbia that resulted in changes like 1992 and 2008. Then there is 2016 where they lost hold of first place in the East.

Nobody is losing their job and the East has been decided. And this Gamecock team is void of overall talent unlike those teams of the past.

Jalin Hyatt will be looking to put on a show in his home town as he chases down more records. Hendon Hooker will look to keep the momentum in a Heisman campaign that will soon be coming,

Defensively the Vols just have to get off the field. South Carolina is void of their top two tailbacks and is a bit of a struggle bus.

The Vols lead early and often as they roll on toward Nashville next week.

Tennessee 56 South Carolina 20

Eric’s pick

South Carolina really struggled to do two things a season ago: score points and defend the run. While the Gamecocks have improved in one respect – it’s still not great at 28 points per game – they are averaging a touchdown + two-point conversion less in SEC play. Those games have come against Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Florida.

And defending the run has been a TRIP this season for South Carolina. Shane Beamer’s club has surrendered 200+ rushing yards to opponents in five games this season. That mark includes an astounding 374 yards to the Gators last weekend.

Simply put, Tennessee should absolutely roll in this one.

I understand it’s a night game on the road, playing SEC football. It’s never easy and over the years, the Vols haven’t made it easy on themselves. But in all but four games this season, the Vols have played their game and not gotten in their own way. Scoring early and silencing this – what I’m sure will be a – rowdy crowd is of great importance.

South Carolina is also scoring touchdowns on just 66 percent of trips to the red zone. Bottom line, I expect Tennessee to come out and do what it did this season. And if given the opportunity, Tennessee should continue pouring it on. Will it make a difference in the end? I do not know. But what I do know is Tennessee isn’t a given for the CFB Playoffs so I would once again leave no doubt.

Tennessee 55, South Carolina 17

Grant’s pick

This feels like the last hurdle. Don’t get me wrong, Tennessee still has to take care of business at Vanderbilt next week in the regular-season finale. But, sorry Vandy, South Carolina feels like the last real hurdle this Tennessee team has to get over.

The College Football Playoff conversation, when it involves Tennessee, focuses on the fact that Ohio State and Michigan play each other next week, that TCU still has to go 3-0 over its final three games, including the Big 12 championship game, and that it would seem impossible for LSU to jump the Vols, even if the Tigers beat Georgia in Atlanta in the SEC title game.

And, obviously, that’s all assuming Tennessee handles its business. The Vols did that on Saturday on Senior Day against Missouri. It was a little nervous for a minute in the third quarter. Then in the blink of an eye Tennessee scored 38 straight points and had 66 on the board by the time Joe Milton III came into the game and Uncle Rico’d the Vols down the field on back-to-back mop-up duty possessions.

South Carolina isn’t great. Vegas opened with Tennessee as a nearly three-touchdown favorite for a reason. Since Sunday, the line has grown to 21 points in some sports books. The Gamecocks won four straight at one point, including a 30-24 win over Texas A&M at home. But the same South Carolina team lost to Missouri 23-10 at home and lost 38-6 at Florida last week. And clearly the Aggies are trash, now having lost six straight games.

Still, though. Night game. On the road. It’s never easy. But I haven’t seen anything from this Tennessee team to make me believe the Vols won’t rise to the occasion. There’s just too much on the line and too much we’ve seen from this squad in the last 10 games.

Tennessee 48, South Carolina 20

Rob’s pick

In college football it’s dangerous to look at last week and try to predict what might happen this week, but man, South Carolina looked like a dead team at Florida last week in a 38-6 loss where the Gamecocks couldn’t manage a single offensive touchdown.

At the risk of oversimplifying things, this one looks easy to me. South Carolina can’t score. They average 20.7 points in SEC play. Tennessee can score with ease against everyone but Georgia. The Vols average 42.2 points per game in SEC play.

In SEC play South Carolina ranks last in turnover margin at -7. Tennessee ranks third at +5. Tennessee doesn’t need extra possessions to score a lot of points, but if you give them to them you’re in trouble.

South Carolina can’t stop the run, and if you can’t do that against this Tennessee team it’s going to be a long day. When the Vols can stay balanced and on schedule in terms of down and distance that’s when the offensive tempo really starts to wear on opposing defenses. That’s going to happen Saturday night in Columbia against a run defense that’s been mauled by SEC offenses.

Tennessee destroyed South Carolina last year and this year’s version of the Gamecocks doesn’t look like they’ve improved.

The Hooker for Heisman campaign rolls on this weekend and Jalin Hyatt will have a field day against his home state school.

Tennessee 52, South Carolina 20

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