We’re introducing a new weekly article on RockyTopInsider.com, and that’s Buy or Sell! Managing editor Nathanael Rutherford and staff writer Ben McKee will either buy or sell the likelihood of several things happening each week before a Tennessee football game. Here are their takes on the Vols’ match-up with South Carolina on the road.
Buy or Sell: The Vols will force two turnovers vs. South Carolina.
The Vols haven’t been great at forcing turnovers this year in SEC play, but South Carolina has turned the ball over a ton this season. They’re tied with Auburn for the second-most turnovers of any SEC team, and Tennessee was able to get three turnovers against the Tigers. I think UT can find a way to get a couple takeaways in this one.
South Carolina has struggled in the turnover department this season, not creating enough turnovers on defense and turning the football over too much on offense. Junior quarterback Jake Bentley has started five of six games for South Carolina this season, missing the game against Missouri due to a knee injury. Bentley has thrown 10 touchdowns to seven interceptions this season. Battling an injury, I think Bentley tries to force things if Tennessee pressures him. Nigel Warrior will redeem himself after dropping an interception against Alabama. Todd Kelly Jr., who is likely to start on Saturday, already has eight interceptions in his career and will add his ninth against the Gamecocks.
Buy or Sell: Both Jarrett Guarantano and Keller Chryst will play on Saturday.
I’m going to go against the grain here and say only one QB will play for the Vols in this game, and it will be Jarrett Guarantano. I don’t think he’s as hurt as people think he is, and I think he could’ve gone back in and played against Alabama if it wasn’t a blowout and Pruitt and his staff didn’t want to hold him back in case of further injury. I don’t think you end up seeing Chryst in this game unless it’s a blowout one way or the other, and I don’t think that happens.
I definitely think we’ll see Jarrett Guarantano to start the game. But if he gets off to a slow start or is noticeably limited due to injuries suffered in the Alabama game, I think we’ll see Keller Chryst. With the way the offensive line is playing, I think it’s likely Guarantano takes another big hit or two and as a result, we’ll see Chryst. Especially now that Trey Smith is likely done for the season.
Buy or Sell: Tennessee runs for 150 yards against the Gamecocks.
I know South Carolina hasn’t been particularly good at stopping the run this year (they’re allowing the third-most rushing yards per game in the SEC at 179.2 yards per game), but the Vols haven’t been good at running the ball against SEC competition this year at all. And with Trey Smith now out for the game on Saturday, that further complicates matters. The Vols used him as a crutch in run blocking and often ran to his side. They don’t have him to rely on any longer, and that worries me.
South Carolina is flat out awful at defending the run. In six games this season, the Gamecocks are allowing 179.2 rushing yards per game – which is 89th worst nationally and 12th worst in the SEC. While only allowing 150 rushing yards is a step in the right direction for South Carolina, it’s a notable amount for a Tennessee rushing attack that has struggled this season. Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan are capable of rushing for at least 150 yards, but it’ll come down to whether or not the offensive line can open up some running lanes. If Tennessee can run the ball well against South Carolina, I think the Vols win this game.
Buy or Sell: South Carolina had 8 sacks against the Vols last year. They’ll get half that many this Saturday.
South Carolina is getting DJ Wonnum back for Saturday for his first game this season since the Gamecocks’ season opener, and he’s a beast. He had six sacks and 13 tackles for loss last season and was slated as a preseason All-SEC defender. But aside from what he could potentially bring, the Gamecocks haven’t been great rushing the passer this year. They only have 10 sacks on the season, and for all the criticism UT’s line gets, they don’t usually give up a ton of sacks (even though the quarterback still takes a lot of hits). The Vols are only allowing an average of two sacks per game right now.
I really want to buy this, but South Carolina hasn’t done a great job of getting after the quarterback this season. I don’t think the Gamecocks will get four sacks, but Jarrett Guarantano or Keller Chryst will be under consistent pressure all night, and I think they’ll register two or three. Four sacks is just too much for a front seven that lacks big time play-makers. With the news of Trey Smith being lost for the season on Thursday, the offensive line finds itself in a rough situation. The Vols desperately need somebody to step up along the line.
Buy or Sell: The winning team will score more than 27 points.
I would be shocked if either team eclipsed the 24-point mark in this one. I expect a somewhat ugly game. Not as ugly as last year’s 15-9 contest that saw only one touchdown between the two teams, but I think the winner of this one will score somewhere around 17-22 points.
I think 27 will be the number of points that the winning team finishes the game with. It’ll be a sloppy game for the most part, but I think both offenses have enough weapons on the outside at receiver and at running back to put some points on the board. For both teams, it’ll come down to quarterback play and how the offensive line performs. Whichever team doesn’t turn the football over and gets the best offensive line play will win this football game.