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Know Your Opponent: Quick-Scouting South Carolina

Has any team in the SEC been through more in 2015 than South Carolina? Catastrophic flooding, injuries, tough losses, historic coaches quitting mid-season…etc. It has been just an abysmal season for the Gamecocks to this point, and I don’t see things getting any better for them on Saturday. The Vols opened up as 15-point favorites, and that line has been bet all the way up to 17 in just a couple of days. South Carolina is just a mess.

Offensively, they are consistent at nothing, and their defense is ranked 95th nationally. They can’t stop the run, they can’t move the football, and they are likely struggling with confidence considering their coach quit in the middle of the season and they have now lost three of their last four games.

Tennessee, on the other hand, blew the doors off of Kentucky — a team that beat South Carolina — and will likely be playing in front of a rowdy home crowd as they look to finish the 2015 season in style. All of this spells bad news for the Gamecocks.

Let’s look at the film…

3:04: Shades of Joshua Dobbs in 2014. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see the staff try and protect Dobbs a little bit more on Saturday, plays like this (and bigger ones) will be available all afternoon against an undisciplined South Carolina defense.

3:28: Tackling: still an issue in Columbia.

3:47: Seriously, just look at how uninterested any of these players are in tackling.

4:43: Again, nobody left in the middle to account for the quarterback after the fake to the running back.

5:43: This looks like a complete misread by true freshman quarterback Kyler Murray. If he keeps this ball, he likely walks into the end zone. Don’t expect Joshua Dobbs to make that kind of mistake on Saturday. This should have been a touchdown for the Aggies.

7:49: Very interesting formation/shift by USC here putting Pharoh Cooper in motion as a pitch-man for an option-read. Tennessee will definitely need to be aware of this considering what Cooper was able to do to them last year in Columbia.

8:45: I don’t know if one USC offensive lineman truly “won” his block on this play and the result is a sack. Cory Vereen and Derek Barnett should be in for another productive day.

12:02: South Carolina might be the worst tackling team in college football.

12:32: Tennessee will run this play. Quick passes to Von Pearson, Josh Malone and Joshua Smith need to be a go-to this week. Keep it simple and let playmakers make plays. This is a game that Preston Williams would have absolutely shined in.

14:09: The secondary play here is among the worst I’ve ever seen. The linebackers get sucked into the play-fake and corner at the bottom of the shot just stops defending. Aggies hit an easy score. Wow.

16:14: Pharoh Cooper lined up at running back. Vols got burned out of the Wildcat package last year with him, so I imagine they will be well aware of where he’s lined up at all times. Cooper has been a little banged up this season as well, so I don’t expect a repeat of last year as far as his production.

16:50: South Carolina will use a few screens to slow down Tennessee’s pass-rush. The Vols will need to be aware of that, but Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Darrin Kirkland Jr. played the screen very well against Kentucky, so I wouldn’t be too concerned.

18:24: Here’s that formation/shift with Cooper again. Carolina uses the other running back as a lead blocker while the defense shifts focus towards Cooper. This is a nice look for Carolina and one that the Vols should expect to see some variations of on Saturday.

19:01: Good stat on the screen here. South Carolina has the worst touchdown percentage in the red zone in all of college football.

19:21: At this point in the season, USC knows they have to pull out all of the stops. This can make them a dangerous team because of how unpredictable they’ll be. Here, they call a reverse-pass with backup quarterback Lorenzo Nunez. Nunez decides to keep it himself and reaches the end zone for a touchdown. This was a pretty nice drive for the Gamecock offense.

20:24: This is a touchdown if Jalen Hurd or Alvin Kamara get the carry.

24:02: Orth won’t run often, but he has some wheels and can hit a big play if the defense is caught out of position.

26:13: Another option look.

28:55: Can South Carolina cover anybody in the secondary?

33:20: Another keeper by Orth.

35:27: Texas A&M’s blitz fails to get there and Orth finds his slot receiver open in the middle of the zone for a huge play. If you are going to pressure Orth, it is best to come right up the middle (quarterbacks hate that) and get him out of the pocket. Here, he steps up and has a lot of time to find the man and deliver a great throw.

36:52: Orth was lucky to get this ball back.

40:19: A&M is just daring USC to get off blocks and tackle…and they can’t do it.

I’ve seen enough. South Carolina is going to struggle mightily to stop Tennessee’s offense on Saturday. I just don’t see them consistently finding ways to stop the rushing attack without leaving receivers wide open down the field. Tennessee’s gameplan will likely be similar to what we saw against Kentucky, and that should be more than enough to put 35+ on the board. South Carolina’s offense will hit some plays and have a few solid drives, in my opinion, but their inconsistency in the red zone will likely be their undoing. If Tennessee’s defense can continue to get off the field on third down, they should be fine.

Early prediction: A repeat of the Kentucky game wouldn’t surprise me.

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