South Carolina is at home … again. For the fourth straight game, the Gamecocks are at Williams-Brice.
No. 18 Tennessee comes to town for a 7:15 p.m. game Saturday. We take a look at five keys for the Gamecocks against the Volunteers:
Prepare for a close one
If a rivalry is built on competitive games, it is understandable to see why Tennessee players feel the Gamecocks are a rival.
South Carolina and Tennessee have played tight games in the past four meetings, decided by a total of 11 points. None of those games was decided by more than three points. So if recent history is any indication, the Gamecocks and Vols look like they will play a close one Saturday.
Rolling with Bentley
Jake Bentley passed his first test as the quarterback at South Carolina. But the test is getting a lot tougher now. The true freshman did enough in his debut to win against a bad Massachusetts defense. Tennessee’s defense is much better with a strong defensive line and a nice pair of safeties.
Bentley will be tested to make good decisions, hang in the pocket like a veteran and lead the Gamecocks against a real SEC defense in just his second start. South Carolina will learn a lot about its freshman quarterback Saturday and he will learn a lot about himself.
Tennessee has been prone to turnovers this season, highlighted by seven at Texas A&M on Oct. 8.
South Carolina’s defense has done a nice job of forcing turnovers in 2016, especially a secondary that looked like it would be a weakness of the team. The Gamecocks have forced four twice this season. They won both those games.
If USC can get Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs to make a few questionable throws, which he is prone to doing, it will be sitting in a better position.
Form tackling as a team
South Carolina is catching a break with Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara out Saturday with an injury. But Jalen Hurd is a big back that is tough to tackle. That will be a test for the Gamecocks, who struggled mightily in their first matchup with a strong SEC backfield when Georgia came to town.
Dobbs also is a tough player to tackle when he gets out of the pocket and moving downfield.
South Carolina was not the best tackling team in the past two games, so the time to make sure it is back on track is now.
Enjoy the environment
Williams-Brice Stadium at night? Yes, please. The Gamecocks missed out on their first night home game against Georgia when Hurricane Matthew forced plans to change.
They have one now. Night games are unfamiliar this season; the Gamecocks already have played three. But it’s time for one at home, as Willy-B should be rocking.