Vols vs. Gamecocks Terrifying Game Preview

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

Sketchy Conclusions

  • This game was made for the Halloween season. Dark. Foreboding. A terrifying surprise likely lurking around every corner. But the anticipation of being frightened may be more frightening than what actually jumps out of the shadows. Or not. BOO!
  • A half of a season's worth of stats for both teams can pretty much be tossed out the window as the two teams that will meet on Saturday night are fundamentally different from the teams that compiled those stats. Tennessee's missing the passing game for which Tyler Bray was mostly responsible but has found a bit of a running game out of necessity because of it. Will South Carolina suddenly find a passing game now that they can't rely on Marcus Lattimore to carry the team? Or will some other running back put on a Lattimore mask and inhabit our nightmares with Matt Mauck until the end of time? BOO!
  • So yeah, both teams are fighting without their dominant arms this week and Trying New Stuff. Could be scary. Should be fun.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 21, South Carolina 20.

Schedule and Animated Drive Charts

 

South Carolina Logo

@ East Carolina Pirates 9/3/11 win 56 - 37 coverage
@ Georgia Bulldogs 9/10/11 win 45 - 42 coverage
Navy Midshipmen 9/17/11 win 24 - 21 coverage
Vanderbilt Commodores 9/24/11 win 21 - 3 coverage
Auburn Tigers 10/1/11 loss 13 - 16 coverage
Kentucky Wildcats 10/8/11 win 54 - 3 coverage
@ Mississippi St. Bulldogs 10/15/11 win 14 - 12 coverage

Tennessee Logo

Montana Grizzlies 9/3/11 win 42 - 16 coverage
Cincinnati Bearcats 9/10/11 win 45 - 23 coverage
@ Florida Gators 9/17/11 loss 23 - 33 coverage
Buffalo Bulls 10/1/11 win 41 - 10 coverage
Georgia Bulldogs 10/8/11 loss 12 - 20 coverage
LSU Tigers 10/15/11 loss 7 - 38 coverage
@ Alabama Crimson Tide 10/22/11 loss 6 - 37 coverage

I'm not sure exactlly what to make of the Gamecocks' schedule, to be honest. Close over Georgia? Okay. A loss to an Auburn team that is now 5-3? Oops or uh-oh? Kentucky's horrible. Mississippi State? Also bad. That was the game that cost South Carolina Marcus Lattimore, but he did play as late as the 4th quarter of that game, so do we add a little more weight to the uh-oh side of the scale for Carolina? Whatever the case, the Gamecocks went into this season thinking they had Lattimore and Stephen Garcia for all of it, but both are now gone. They've had two weeks to prepare for Lattimore's absence, but this will be the first full game without him. What's it all mean? Something scary is around the corner. Or not.

Tennessee and South Carolina have both played Georgia and done so with key players who are no longer with their teams, but here are those drive charts for the sake of comparison:

FULL SCREEN VERSION


FULL SCREEN VERSION

Animated Drive Charts brought to you by Gameday Depot.

Oh, look. It's another team with second half issues. #hoping

And yes, that's the whole Tennessee-Georgia game. Somebody owes me some drives because I'm pretty sure I pre-paid for the season. I have my receipt here somewhere.

So Tennessee's defense held Georgia to 20 points, and Carolina's gave up 42. But Carolina's offense scored buckets full of points against Georgia's D, and we scored 12. Like a pint's worth. Those little milk cartons you used to get on a tray in elementary school. It just makes you feel small, doesn't it? Of course, they had Lattimore (we'll discount Garcia because FLAKE), but we had Tyler Bray for most of the game. But we didn't have Justin Hunter. But you can't really draw any conclusions from any of this, can you? But but. Moving on.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Offense 24 197.86 Army 348.29 2 Alabama 229.25
Passing Offense 89 200.43 Houston 441.71 5 Arkansas 321.86
Total Offense 57 398.29 Houston 606.14 4 Arkansas 462.14
Scoring Offense 35 32.43 Houston 49.29 4 Alabama 39.38
Passing Efficiency 85 119.35 Baylor 206.86 8 LSU 162.38
Sacks Allowed T-62 2.00 Stanford .29 5 LSU .88

Offensive observations. Perhaps that rushing offense (and to a lesser degree, the scoring offense) is like all of those Tyler Bray/Justin Hunter stats that held on in the #opportunityisnowhere post for weeks after the players themselves were actually gone. Other than that, what do these guys do? A near-bottom-quartile passing offense and an alarming willingness to permit sacks. I'm beginning to think that without Lattimore the Carolina offense is going to have serious problems against Tennessee. I know, it feels wrong, but it feels good.

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Rushing Defense 53 143.86 Alabama 44.88 6 Alabama 44.88
Pass Efficiency Defense 3 94.73 Alabama 83.63 2 Alabama 83.63
Total Defense 7 277.57 Alabama 180.50 4 Alabama 180.50
Scoring Defense 18 19.14 Alabama 6.88 4 Alabama 6.88
Pass Defense 1 133.71 South Carolina 133.71 1 South Carolina 133.71
Sacks 44 2.14 Texas A&M 4.00 2 LSU 2.38
Tackles For Loss 60 5.86 Marshall 8.75 8 Georgia 7.71

Defensive observations. Greeeaaaat. An elite pass defense for our brand new freshman starter at QB. Woo. But rushing defense is not so good, so expect a special focus on that by the Vols.

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Category National
Rank
Actual National
Leader
Actual Conf
Rank
SEC Leader Actual
Net Punting 61 36.77 Oregon 45.07 8 LSU 41.08
Punt Returns 64 7.88 Ole Miss 27.75 7 Ole Miss 27.75
Kickoff Returns 88 20.47 Temple 28.83 10 Auburn 24.21
Turnover Margin 15 .86 Oklahoma St. 2.14 2 LSU 1.88

Special teams and turnovers observations. I have two things to say about this table: (1) Meh meh meh meh meh, and (2) Any exposure to turnover stats this season for me causes an outbreak of angry eyes and clenched jaws.

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
OFFENSE
Rushing Marcus Lattimore 13 116.86
Passing Efficiency (Min. 15 Att./Game)
Total Offense Marcus Lattimore 116.86
Receptions Per Game Alshon Jeffery 4.29
Marcus Lattimore 2.71
Receiving Yards Per Game Alshon Jeffery 81 64.43
Scoring Marcus Lattimore T-18 9.43
Jay Wooten 5.86
Alshon Jeffery 4.29

Offensive Observations. You'll have a challenge watching Marcus Lattimore this weekend because he'll be on the sideline on crutches. Actually, you'll probably see him a lot because broadcasts like to show that stuff. Unlike some other teams we've looked at in recent weeks, that rushing box belongs exclusively to one guy, not a duo or a herd. Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles are the guys behind Lattimore, and we know next to nothing about them, which, if the 2001 SEC Championship Game against LSU still gives you nightmares like it should, is not necessarily good news. The only other real danger here is WR Alshon Jeffery, who is an extremely talented receiver but is not quite elite enough to throw the ball to himself. And notice the complete lack of a QB in the NCAA's auto-box of offensive players to watch. SC ranks 89th nationally in passing offense and 85th in passing efficiency. Do we focus on shutting down a pedestrian passing attack because Lattimore's out, or do we do what we've been doing and focus first on shutting down the run despite the fact that Lattimore's out? I'm casting my vote for the latter but with a little more balance in pass defense this week, please. Pretty please, with a Halloween chocolate marshmellow on top.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions C.C. Whitlock T-19 .43
Antonio Allen T-19 .43
D.J. Swearinger T-67 .29
Stephon Gilmore T-67 .29
Melvin Ingram T-67 .29
Sacks Melvin Ingram T-18 .79
Jadeveon Clowney T-22 .71
Devin Taylor .29
Byron Jerideau .21
Tackles Antonio Allen T-57 8.57
D.J. Swearinger 6.00
Tackles For Loss Melvin Ingram T-33 1.29
Jadeveon Clowney T-82 1.00
Antonio Allen .93

Defense. This is a different story altogether. Look at all of those tentacles in the secondary. And they have a couple of guys along the D-line who are capable of rattling Justin Worley. So let's hope the running game is working and that Worley can do just enough to keep the Gamecocks defense honest. As in respecting the property rights of the offense.

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
Punting (Min. 3.6 Punts/Game) Joey Scribner-Howard 53 40.52
Punt Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Ace Sanders 22 9.92
Kickoff Returns (Min. 1.2 Ret./Game) Bruce Ellington 77 22.18
Field Goals Jay Wooten T-96 .57
All-Purpose Runners Marcus Lattimore T-27 142.86

Special teams. I love Devrin Young, but I want him to be named Ace Sanders because that name is so awesome no screenwriter would use it for fear of being accused of trying too hard. Anyway, he's pretty good, too, so watch out for him.

Head to Head Comparisons

  Tennessee Logo South Carolina Logo
Comps
Result Against Comps
Prediction
UT rush v. South Carolina rush defense 89.43
(#115)
143.86
(#53)
Florida
(120.71)
(#32)
-9 135
UT pass v. South Carolina pass defense 261
(#35)
133.71
(#1)
Alabama
(135.63)
(#3)
63 120
South Carolina rush v. UT rush defense 154
(#63)
197.86
(#24)
Cincinnati
(200)
(#22)
166 120
South Carolina pass v. UT pass defense 208.71
(#41)
200.43
(#89)
LSU/Florida
(183.13/178)
(#99/#100)
146/213 140
UT scoring offense v. South Carolina scoring defense 25.14
(#76)
19.14
(#18)
Cincinnati/Florida
(19/18.86)
(#17/#16)
45/23 21
South Carolina scoring offense v. UT scoring defense 25.29
(#54)
32.43
(#35)
Georgia
(32.43)
(36)
20 20

As always, these are informed guesses rather than mathematical calculations, and the general analytical framework is this: We are averaging X in a certain category. The opponent averages Y against that, which is most closely comparable to some identified previous opponent, against whom we did Z. All of that leads to an informed guess labeled as Prediction. The less data you have, the more sketchy the guess, and the guesses range from ALL CAPS SKETCHY WITH EXCLAMATION POINTS at the beginning of the season to merely lower case sketchy for the last game.

The comps are particularly screwed up this week because we will be a completely different team this week than we have been all season and the same can be said of South Carolina. We were not particularly interested in running against the Gators, and we were not particularly focused on passing against the Tide. Not that it would have mattered without Tyler Bray. And as much as I'd like to point to the Cincinnati game as some evidence of what we can do, I can't. We are fundamentally different now. So this week's guesses are even guessier than normal this week.

By way of example, here is my thought process on the prediction for UT's rushing yards. We stink, but we stink less so the last couple of weeks than we did earlier in the season against Florida when it wasn't as important. So yeah, Carolina is closest in the run defense rankings to Florida, but I doubt we're going negative yards on the ground this weekend. No, we ran for 92 net yards against 'Bama and 111 against LSU, and they're both significantly better at stopping the run than is either Florida or South Carolina. So forget that normal comp and go with the more recent, and expect maybe 100 yards on the ground. Add in the fact that we'll be breaking in a brand new freshman QB and that Carolina is more dangerous through the air in the secondary, and add another 30-40 yards. So best guess? 135. There are similar problem predicting South Carolina's numbers due to the sudden absence of their best offensive weapon.

Sketchy Conclusions

  • This game was made for the Halloween season. Dark. Foreboding. A terrifying surprise likely lurking around every corner. But the anticipation of being frightened may be more frightening than what actually jumps out of the shadows. Or not. BOO!
  • A half of a season's worth of stats for both teams can pretty much be tossed out the window as the two teams that will meet on Saturday night are fundamentally different from the teams that compiled those stats. Tennessee's missing the passing game for which Tyler Bray was mostly responsible but has found a bit of a running game out of necessity because of it. Will South Carolina suddenly find a passing game now that they can't rely on Marcus Lattimore to carry the team? Or will some other running back put on a Lattimore mask and inhabit our nightmares with Matt Mauck until the end of time? BOO!
  • So yeah, both teams are fighting without their dominant arms this week and Trying New Stuff. Could be scary. Should be fun.

Predictions

  • Tennessee 21, South Carolina 20.
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Rocky Top Talk

You must be a member of Rocky Top Talk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Rocky Top Talk. You should read them.

Join Rocky Top Talk

You must be a member of Rocky Top Talk to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Rocky Top Talk. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker