Matchups to watch for against South Carolina

The Tennessee Volunteers look to avoid disaster by beating South Carolina on Saturday. Here are the biggest matchups to watch for this weekend.

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 29, 2016 - defensive back Todd Kelly Jr. #24 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, SC. Photo By Hayley Pennesi/Tennessee Athletics

Head coach Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks (4-2, 2-2 SEC) travel to Knoxville to clash with the Tennessee Volunteers (3-2, 0-2 SEC) in Neyland Stadium on Saturday. Vols head coach Butch Jones looks to avoid a second straight loss to the Gamecocks coming off of a bye week, and pick up his first win over Muschamp in his career.

These are the biggest matchups to keep your eye on this Saturday.

Jarrett Guarantano vs. South Carolina defense

The redshirt freshman quarterback received the starting job over the bye week and will make his debut against Muschamp and the stout South Carolina defense this weekend. Guarantano hasn’t looked too hot himself with just 54 yards on 12-of-24 throwing, but his dual-threat ability brings promise to the option-oriented spread offense of the Vols. However, South Carolina’s defense has looked impressive, especially after scoring three defensive touchdowns last week against Arkansas. Guarantano will certainly have his hands full in his first career start at quarterback on Saturday against a talented Gamecocks secondary.  

John Kelly vs. South Carolina front seven 

Although a lot of this matchup hinges on the success of the Tennessee offensive line, Kelly has still shown he can be lethal when they are struggling. Kelly has logged 723 total yards from scrimmage and three 100-yard rushing games in his first five games. He will be facing a spectacular Gamecocks front seven with T.J. Brunson and Skai Moore who have 91 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and two interceptions combined on the season. The Vols offensive line has struggled with run blocking in recent games. However, containing Kelly might be more difficult for South Carolina with the added threat of Guarantano’s athleticism.

Jake Bentley vs. the Tennessee defense

The Volunteers defense has been their strong suit over the past five games. However, their stats don’t reflect that because the defense has stayed on the field for the majority of the game. The defense still has flaws, mainly in their secondary and with tackling. Bentley has a chance to tear Tennessee apart if his offensive line can hold up. The South Carolina offensive line has given up 16 sacks this season, but Bentley has still tallied over 1,400 yards passing and 12 touchdowns so far this season. Bentley has proven to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the SEC by averaging over seven yards-per-play. As usual, his success will depend upon the Gamecocks’ offensive line.

Tennessee defensive line vs. South Carolina offensive line

Tennessee’s defensive line has been one of the most improved parts of the whole team through five games. However, news of defensive end Darrell Taylor being suspended could halt their steady progress. The Gamecocks offensive line has had its fair share of struggles after giving up 16 sacks in six games, with seven of them coming against Texas A&M. Tennessee defensive tackle Kendal Vickers called on Kyle Phillips and Matthew Butler to step up in place of Taylor. The South Carolina offensive line seemed to get it together last week against Arkansas, but the veteran Vols defensive line could give them some trouble on Saturday. The game will likely be won in the trenches this weekend.

Featured image courtesy of UT Sports

Edited by Ben McKee