Game time: 7:15 p.m. ET
Odds: Tennessee -15, Over/Under 51 via oddsshark.com
Tennessee (5-2, 2-2 SEC), coming off a bye week, looks to rebound from back to back losses as they travel to Columbia to face South Carolina (3-4, 1-4 SEC) Saturday evening.
The Gamecocks enter the game coming off a six point win over UMass which wrapped up the New Englanders’ three game SEC slate for the season. While on the surface, a 34-28 win over UMass is nothing to write home about for South Carolina, the thing that may have been most important coming out of that game was hope for the future in the form of Jake Bentley.
The true freshman quarterback--the son of current South Carolina and former Auburn running backs coach Bobby Bentley—skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at South Carolina. In his first collegiate start, he threw a pair of touchdowns (17/26, 206 yards, 0 interceptions) and will be looking to gain confidence with that first game under his belt.
Many of Bentley’s early throws came on short throws, but he did show the ability to step up in the pocket to avoid a rush so the early signs are promising and his touchdowns came off a pair of well thrown fade routes (along with another thrown too far towards the center of the field that should have been an interception against a better defensive back).
Going up against Derek Barnett and company may not, however, give Bentley a chance to get comfortable as the Volunteers try to right the ship and focus on a potential stretch run towards the East title.
Barnett and the Tennessee defense will be without linebacker Jalen Reeves-Mabin and defensive back Cam Sutton due to injury. The Tennessee defense should still offer a stout challenge to an offensive line which has yielded 18 sacks (second worst in the SEC, 2.57 per game) and ranks last in the SEC in rushing yards per game and attempt (over half a yard worse per attempt than the 13th ranked Arkansas rushing game).
Short throws via swing routes or screens probably offer the best option for South Carolina’s offense to keep Tennessee’s defense honest but may not be explosive enough to garner a ton of points. Regardless, South Carolina must stay on schedule and keep the chains moving or could be in for a long evening.
With a win today, Tennessee could find itself back on top of the East with losses for both Florida and Kentucky, but the more likely scenario places leaves the Volunteers still needing Florida to drop a game after today. South Carolina, meanwhile, needs the win to keep any semblance of hope of making a bowl (games against Missouri and Western Carolina offer two more potential wins with likely losses to Florida and Clemson).