Following a spirited victory against then-No. 21 Auburn, Tennessee was brought back down to Earth against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. The Vols were blown out 58-21 against their long-time rivals in Neyland Stadium.
Tennessee looks to get back on track against South Carolina this Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Vols enter the game 3-4, needing a victory to bolster their chances of making a bowl game. South Carolina meanwhile, sits at 3-3 and could also use this game to catapult them into the second half of the season.
With both teams desperately needing a win, this game will come down to a couple of matchups. If Tennessee hopes to rebound from last week, they have to win these one-on-one’s.
Tennessee DB Alontae Taylor vs. South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
Samuel is one of the most dynamic players in the SEC. Coming off a season-ending leg injury last year, Samuel leads the Gamecocks with 33 catches and 382 yards. He has four touchdowns and is a threat in special teams.
Tennessee’s young secondary has had its ups and downs this season. Freshman Alontae Taylor has started every game at corner this year and has seemed to be Jeremy Pruitt’s most trustworthy player in the secondary. Taylor has been nothing short of spectacular in his first season. Pro Football Focus college division released a stat showing Power Five cornerbacks who have allowed the fewest yards per coverage snap to their match-ups this season, and Taylor comes in at sixth.
Jeremy Pruitt and his staff will rely on Taylor to try and slow down Samuel. If Taylor is able to nuetralize Samuel, South Carolina will lose a key cog in their offensive game plan.
Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings vs. South Carolina DB Rashad Fenton
Jauan Jennings started the season injured and got off to a slow start for the Vols. Over the last few weeks, however, Jennings has emerged as a go-to receiver. Jennings is second on the team with 309 receiving yards and second with two touchdowns. Similar to Samuel, Jennings is crucial for the success of Tennessee’s offense.
Rashad Fenton has been South Carolina’s top defensive back. He leads the team with three interceptions, which puts him in a tie for second in the SEC.
If Fenton can slow down Jennings, Tennessee will lose one of its best receivers and have a hard time moving the ball through the air.
Tennessee OC Tyson Helton vs South Carolina HC Will Muschamp
Tennessee’s offense has been up and down throughout the season. Offensive line struggles and inconsistent play have hampered the offensive production. The Vols will have to figure things out fast if they want to beat Will Muschamp.
Over his tenure at Florida and South Carolina, Muschamp is 6-0 against the Vols. His biggest advantage has been his defenses. The Vols have only cracked 300 total yards of offense once in those six games, averaging 270.3 yards against Muschamp-led teams.
This season, Tennessee is averaging 350.6 yards per game on offense. South Carolina is allowing 378.3 yards per game this year, so the Vols have the opportunity to eclipse the 300 yard mark.
If Helton can find a way to move the ball and score on Muschamp’s defense, it will go a long way in helping the Vols improve their chances of going bowling.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Featured image courtesy of Jake Nichols.
Edited by Jake Nichols.