Tennessee Volunteers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks: game preview

A weekly look at our upcoming opponent's recent history, with animated drive charts and links to SB Nation game pages.

This is a long post full of moving pictures and stats, so I'm putting the conclusions and predictions both at the beginning and at the end.

Conclusions

  • South Carolina appears to be much better passing the ball than running it, yet they tend to allow their QB to get sacked quite a bit. If the Vols can shut down the running game and pressure the QB without borrowing from the secondary, this could be the game that Berry breaks the interception return yardage record.
  • Expect an emphasis on the running game for the Vols. The Gamecocks are as good as the Florida Gators at defending the pass, so Jonathan Crompton will need to be on his game, but they're not so good at stopping the run.
  • Steve Spurrier's team has a solid field goal kicker and a strong defensive line, which sounds a bit too familiar after last week. The Vols must get into the end zone when they have their opportunities.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 17, South Carolina 16

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

South Carolina Logo
@ N.C. State Wolfpack 9/3/09 win 7 - 3
@ Georgia Bulldogs 9/12/09 loss 37 - 41
Florida Atlantic Owls 9/19/09 win 38 - 16
Mississippi Rebels 9/24/09 win 16 - 10
S. Carolina St. Bulldogs 10/3/09 win 38 - 14
Kentucky Wildcats 10/10/09 win 28 - 26
@ Alabama Crimson Tide 10/17/09 loss 6 - 20
Vanderbilt Commodores 10/24/09 win 14 - 10

 

FULL SCREEN VERSION

Well that's encouraging. 7-3 against North Carolina State? No problem!

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Also good is the fact that South Carolina lost to the team we beat 45-19.

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Hmm. Nothing special to see here.

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Lots of offensive futility there in the second half. Hope our coaches are learning something from that.

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Close game against Kentucky? What does that mean? South Carolina not that bad? Kentucky better than we think?

FULL SCREEN VERSION

 

Wow. A 20-6 loss to Alabama, but two interceptions and two forced fumbles? Watch out for the defense!

[South Carolina-Vanderbilt not available]

National Unit Rankings

Now on to the national rankings.

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Offense
70
137.25
Nevada
320.14
9
Florida
258.29
Passing Offense
47
229.13
Texas Tech
418.88
2
Arkansas
295.57
Total Offense
67
366.38
Houston
536.57
8
Florida
457.00
Scoring Offense
93
23.00
Texas
41.86
11
Florida
35.29
Passing Efficiency
59
129.46
Boise St.
168.22
7
Florida
156.07
Sacks Allowed
99
2.75
Iowa St.
.50
11
Georgia
.86

 

Offensive observations. South Carolina's in the bottom half of the NCAA in all offensive categories except passing, and they're only slightly better than average there. They're gaining 366 yards per game, 137 of which are on the ground and 229 of which are through the air. They don't score a ton of points, and they don't do well at all protecting their quarterback from sacks. It could be a good day for Chris Walker and company on the d-line.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Rushing Defense
70
147.63
Texas
41.29
8
Alabama
64.88
Pass Efficiency Defense
20
103.71
Florida
86.83
6
Florida
86.83
Total Defense
14
288.88
Florida
229.57
4
Florida
229.57
Scoring Defense
21
17.50
Penn St.
8.88
5
Florida
10.14
Pass Defense
3
141.25
Eastern Mich.
124.43
2
Florida
135.00
Sacks
47
2.25
Cincinnati
4.14
5
Mississippi
3.00
Tackles For Loss
54
6.13
Cincinnati
10.43
7
Arkansas
7.57

 

Defense. The Gamecocks, ranked third in the nation in pass defense, are as good at defending the pass as are the Florida Gators, so Jonathan Crompton better be on his game. They're not so good, however, at keeping opponents from running the ball, ranking only 70th and allowing nearly 148 yards per game on the ground. Putting those two components together, South Carolina ranks 14th in the nation in total defense, not too far behind Tennessee and Alabama.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
Southeastern
Conference Leader
Actual
Net Punting
80
34.81
Georgia
44.06
7
Georgia
44.06
Punt Returns
62
9.17
East Carolina
20.00
8
Alabama
15.92
Kickoff Returns
54
22.59
Stanford
31.77
10
Arkansas
28.42
Turnover Margin
37
.50
Air Force
2.25
5
Arkansas
1.43

 

Special teams and Turnovers. Steve Spurrier's team is basically average on special teams. They're a little better than most in turnover margin, but not much.

Stastical Comparison

Here's how the two teams stack up against each other in each of the key statistical categories in Hooper's wizbang BlogPoll Computerer:

Rank Team WL SOS PED RD 3DO TD PEO OPPG TO 3DD
22
South Carolina Logo
19
36
20
70
55
14
59
21
67
50
32
Tennessee Logo
77
21
14
33
73
10
66
25
56
22

Players to watch for

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
Rushing Kenny Miles
51.25
  Jarvis Giles
36.57
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game) Stephen Garcia
62
128.40
Total Offense Stephen Garcia
41
236.62
  Kenny Miles
51.25
Receptions Per Game Moe Brown
3.14
  Alshon Jeffery
3.00
  Tori Gurley
2.62
  Weslye Saunders
2.43
Receiving Yards Per Game Alshon Jeffery
55.38
  Moe Brown
46.29
  Tori Gurley
39.75
Interceptions Eric Norwood
.25
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Spencer Lanning
38
42.31
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game)  
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Chris Culliver
54
24.50
Field Goals Spencer Lanning
T-20
1.50
Scoring Spencer Lanning
T-77
6.88
  Alshon Jeffery
3.75
  Brian Maddox
3.75
All-Purpose Runners Chris Culliver
67.38
Sacks Eric Norwood
T-33
.75
  Cliff Matthews
T-54
.62
  Clifton Geathers
.29
Tackles Shaq Wilson
7.00
Tackles For Loss Eric Norwood
T-84
1.06
  Cliff Matthews
T-91
1.00

 

Observations

Running backs. Heh. Look, they're called Miles and Giles. Neither of them are ranked nationally, and together they're only getting about 88 yards per game.

Quarterbacks. Stephen Garcia is middle-of-the-pack in passing efficiency (not too far above Crompton) and ranks 41st in total offense with 237 yards per game (quite a bit above Crompton's 207).

Receivers/Tight Ends. Garcia appears to spread the ball around well with four different guys getting 2.5 to 3 catches per game and three different guys getting nearly 40 yards per game or better.

Defense. This is where the Gamecocks are very dangerous. Defensive linemen Eric Norwood and Cliff Matthews are both sack and tackle machines who rank nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss. Clifton Geathers adds another .3 sacks and one tackle for loss per contest. The team appears to spend a lot of time in the opponent's backfield wreaking havoc.

Special teams. There doesn't appear to be too much to worry about here except that placekicker Spencer Lanning is tied for 20th in field goals. Hmm. A solid field goal kicker and a defensive line that can move the scrimmage line backwards. That sounds eerily familiar.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo South Carolina Logo
Best Comparable
Result Against Best Comparable
Prediction
UT rush v. SC rush defense 168.29 147.63 Ohio (148) 177 180
UT pass v. SC pass defense 217 141.25 Florida (135) 93 130
SC rush v. UT rush defense 113.86 137.25 WKU (152.57) 34 70
SC pass v. UT pass defense 155.86 229.13 Georgia (226.71) 152 150
UT score 28.86 17.5 Alabama (11.38) 10 17
SC score 18.43 23 UCLA (20) 19 20

This is the second week I've done this, I'll explain again. This is not math. It's simply looking at each team's current respective performance in a particular aspect of the game (e.g., Tennessee's rushing game verses its opponent's rushing defense), then looking for the team that we've already played that compares best to this week's opponent's current performance and seeing how we did against that team, and then making a non-mathy but informed prediction about how we might do in that aspect of the game. Example: Tennessee is passing for 217 yards per game against its opponents in 2009. South Carolina is holding its opponents to 141.25 yards per game through the air. The opponent we've already played that is closest in the rankings in pass defense to South Caroline is Florida, against whom we managed only 93 yards through the air. So should we expect no more than 93 yards or so against South Carolina? Not really. We're a much better passing team now than we were then. Still, we're probably not getting our game average of 217. I'm guessing 130.

The prediction then is 310 yards total offense for the Vols and 220 for the Gamecocks. The score here is the weird thing, though, suggesting that we shouldn't expect many more than 17 points for ourselves but that South Carolina could get 20 or so. I'm not really buying that based on our upward trend. Alabama holds its opponents to about 12 points per game, and they held us to 10, so the Vols scoring South Carolina's average of 17 points sounds about right. The Gamecocks are averaging 23 points per game, but the opponents we've played that are closest to them in scoring offense are Ohio and UCLA who basically got their average of about 20 against us. I just don't think those early games are indicative of where this team is now, so I'm going with a score of 17-16, Vols.

Conclusions

  • South Carolina appears to be much better passing the ball than running it, yet they tend to allow their QB to get sacked quite a bit. If the Vols can shut down the running game and pressure the QB without borrowing from the secondary, this could be the game that Berry breaks the interception return yardage record.
  • Expect an emphasis on the running game for the Vols. The Gamecocks are as good as the Florida Gators at defending the pass, so Jonathan Crompton will need to be on his game, but they're not so good at stopping the run.
  • Steve Spurrier's team has a solid field goal kicker and a strong defensive line, which sounds a bit too familiar after last week. The Vols must get into the end zone when they have their opportunities.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 17, South Carolina 16

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