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Staff Picks: Tennessee vs. South Carolina

The picks are in.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

Here we go — another swing game for Tennessee. The Volunteers have already taken one loss on the year, and if they want to contend for the SEC East, taking another is not an option. They’ll take on Spencer Rattler and the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night, looking for some revenge from last year’s debacle.

Can they take care of business? Our picks are below.

Terry: Tennessee 38, South Carolina 27

I’ve been torn all week on this one, but there’s something about this 12 point line that leads me to believe somebody knows something. I would have never guessed this would be a double-digit spread, but Neyland and night and the revenge factor are clearly playing a role.

Spencer Rattler is playing at a really high level, and I just don’t have full trust in this Tennessee offense. The Volunteers aren’t clicking in the throw game, but they’ve been propped up on the ground to this point. Can that continue against SEC competition? It certainly didn’t against Florida.

Joe Milton needs to get this passing attack rolling, and South Carolina offers an opportunity to do just that. The Gamecocks are 126th in passing yards allowed — near the literal bottom of the barrel in FBS competition.

Tennessee is going to give up some points here, but I don’t think South Carolina gets enough stops to come out on top.

Nick: Tennessee 38, South Carolina 31

Like the Florida game, I’m picking against my base instinct.

The Vols need to start fast — last week’s two-TD first quarter would certainly do. But they also have to put together a full football game, something they’ve struggled with the last two weeks.

Spencer Rattler and SC’s offense are likely to pop essentially the same DBs they faced last season for some big plays, but if the Vols’ front four can manage pressure *and* keep containment, the defense has a chance.

Let’s hope Milton’s leg is fully healed and we get the same sort of 14-16 passing start he had against Austin Peay.

Run the ball, keep the penalties down and don’t let Rattler embarrass you in your own house.

Matt: Tennessee 27, South Carolina 21

Revenge is the elephant in the room in this game. Last year was a complete and total embarrassment and served as Hendon Hooker’s unceremonious swan song. From players to coaches, South Carolina buried Tennessee’s playoff hopes and danced on their grave.

It’s time to get back.

Joe Milton, all eyes are on you. It’s Tennessee’s second conference game, and the first one did not go well. It’s time to rebound, and after an impressive offensive performance against UTSA, I think we see exactly that. I anticipate Dylan Sampson playing a huge role in securing a lead for the Vols, and the defense will do its part locking it down.

South Carolina’s pass protection is shaky to say the least, so the Vols are going to need a huge day from their pass rush.

Craig: Tennessee 45, South Carolina 27

Josh Heupel has talked about the team needing to keep its focus and intensity for four quarters, which has been inexplicably tough for the Vols this year. If avenging 63-38 before a raucous crowd on national television can’t do that, then you need to check your pulse because you might not be alive. I think UT rolls up the yards on the ground and through the air, the home crowd has a disruptive effect, and Tyler Baron makes some impact plays off the edge to swing the game in UT’s favor.

Christian: Tennessee 35 South Carolina 24

I’ve see a ton of discourse across message boards and media outlets this week about this game. Some people wildly pessimistic, some people wildly optimistic. I sit somewhere in the middle. The fact of the matter is that this game means a lot for Tennessee. Not just because of what happened last year versus South Carolina, but because if you can’t win this game at home, with this atmosphere, it really sends a giant “Oh s***” moment to the fans. If you’re not going to win Saturday, how many conference games are you going to win?

I think Tennessee tries to establish the run game early. While many are putting pressure on Milton to show what he’s made of and win this game for Tennessee, the run game is what gets this Tennessee offense in a rhythm. I expect Jaylen Wright to continue to find success, and to see a decent dose of Dylan Sampson as well. Getting these two going will create opportunities for the passing game, and allow Joe Milton to make the plays he needs to make.

Aside from establishing the run, I’m looking for Tennessee’s pass rush to take control of a mediocre-at-best South Carolina offensive line. They’ve allowed 16 sacks through just four games this season, and Tennessee’s front seven should take advantage.

Tennessee might not cover, but I do think they walk out with a their first conference win of the season.