Kevin C. Cox
South Carolina and Tennessee have a lot to prove in this game. One team is capable of proving it
Very rarely do you get a game where the perception of two teams is so different, and yet both teams have something to prove. Tennessee is coming off a three-game losing streak that's not totally unexpected but nonetheless has them fighting for a bowl berth. South Carolina's two-game skid was also foreseeable, even if the margin against Florida has raised questions about just how good the Gamecocks really are.
In some ways, it's also an old storyline: The team with the explosive offense (Tennessee) against the team with the solid defense (South Carolina). Even after giving up 44 points to Florida, South Carolina averages giving up just 16.3 points a game, and the Gators didn't significantly alter the Gamecocks' yardage averages -- largely because offensive turnovers turned the game into a rout. Tennessee, meanwhile, has scored fewer than 40 points just twice -- against Florida and Alabama. But when you rank 14th in total defense, the ability to score a bunch of points isn't necessarily going to get you to victory.
But even if you're wary about intangibles, what has to make you think that South Carolina will win this game decisively is the setting. The last team to beat South Carolina at home was Auburn more than a year ago. The Gamecocks are 27-5 at Williams-Brice since the beginning of the 2008 season. The one thing they don't need to prove is that they play well in Columbia.
South Carolina 34, Tennessee 20