Editor’s note: For SEC games this season, Daniel Lewis will put together a blueprint for how Tennessee can have its best chance to knock off that week’s opponent. It’s written from a Tennessee coach’s mindset and isn’t necessarily representative of how RTI predicts the game to go.
Offense: Things sure have changed in a couple weeks. We went from just hoping to take care of the ball and help our defense out to scoring 20 points against an elite Alabama defense and having some new life on offense with Josh Dobbs at quarterback.
We have great confidence coming into this game. All phases of our offense were ignited by Dobbs, who will be our starter this week, and if we were able to have some success against Alabama’s defense, we should be able to light up South Carolina’s, which ranks near the bottom of the SEC in almost every category.
And what should be scary for the Gamecocks is we left opportunities out there against Alabama. Dobbs was a little rusty and missed a couple throws that could’ve put even more points on the board. He’ll be ready to make those this week.
But, first and foremost, we need to run the football this week because South Carolina is dead last in the league in rushing defense. We have several ways to do just that. Let’s aim to top our season high of rushing attempts (45) and we’ll do it through various methods: traditional runs, quarterbacks run and we’ll polish up the Thundering Hurd package. Several teams, most notably Kentucky, have run wild out of the wildcat. We can emulate that success.
That’ll open the passing game for us. The overthrow on the play to Pig Howard down the sideline against Alabama showed what we can do when the run sets up the pass. Howard was wide open after Dobbs’ run fake. We missed him on that particular one, but we’ll hit him in Columbia.
Our offensive line is playing with much more confidence and we have some options this week of how to mix and match the five if something isn’t working. SC is also last in the SEC in sacks, so that, plus Dobbs’ mobility, should give us time to throw. We still have great confidence in our defense and know that if we hold onto the ball and help them out, we’ll have a great shot to win. But SC will put points on the board. Let’s aim for at least 30 points this week and give our defense some margin for error.
But the Gamecocks are incredibly balanced and we’ll need to play one of our best games of the year in terms of all 11 players on the field knowing their assignments and executing at a high level.
We can’t double-cover or shade to any receiver because they have at least three in Pharoh Cooper, Nick Jones and Shaq Roland who can hurt us. We’ll be in the nickel a lot and play man-to-man defense with a safety over the top to help with the deep ball. We need big games from Cam Sutton, Justin Coleman and Michael Williams or Emmanuel Moseley.
That’ll put some pressure on our defensive front to get off their blocks from a really big and talented offensive line and get Mike Davis on the ground. He’s very good and if he hurts us early, we may have to sacrifice safety help over the top to get another body in the box.
We should have the athleticism edge up front. The Gamecocks’ o-line looks closer to Oklahoma’s in terms of size and the Sooners had a hard time keeping up with athletic guys like Jordan Williams, Corey Vereen and Derek Barnett. We can do that again, try to draw some holding calls and get into the backfield to create some havoc.
Turnovers will be massive this game. Both teams should be able to move the ball. South Carolina’s offense is good enough to put several scoring drives together, so we have to get some stops via the turnover. They’re not going to stop themselves too often. They have a negative .50 turnover margin for the season, so there’s some precedent that they’ll cough it up and give us a chance to win this game on the road.