Saturday's SEC game between South Carolina and Tennessee in Knoxville doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things but probably is a bit more important for the Gamecocks. The Vols are -17 on JustBet's college football odds with a total of 58.
Gamecocks Striving For Bowl
Why do I think this game is more important to South Carolina (3-5, 1-5)? Because I see no chance for USC to get to six wins and make a bowl game with a loss and still very little even with a victory. The Gamecocks, still led by interim coach Shawn Elliott in place of the retired Steve Spurrier, are going to be underdogs next week against No. 10 Florida as well as Nov. 28 vs. No. 1 Clemson (rankings from College Football Playoff committee). USC will beat The Citadel on Nov. 21. So at least a win here gets USC an upset away vs. the Gators or Tigers to play in the postseason.
South Carolina comes off a 35-28 loss at Texas A&M, dropping to 1-1 under Elliott. USC had a season-high 445 yards of offense against the Aggies, with Brandon Wilds rushing for a season-best 128 yards with two touchdowns on 17 carries. Quarterback Perry Orth was 15-for-24 for 192 yards (but two picks) with 64 yards rushing and a TD on 11 carries. He had a 66-yard run that marked the longest run by a Gamecock quarterback since Steve Satterfield went for 73 yards vs. Virginia on Nov. 7, 1959. But the USC defense couldn't start A&M true freshman Kyler Murray (379 total yards) in his first start and the Aggies had 544 yards of total offense.
This is USC's final road game of the season. The Gamecocks are 4-4 against the spread on college football odds and 3-4-1 'over/under.'
UT Could Be Unbeaten
Tennessee (4-4, 2-3) should have no problem reaching a bowl game as it could easily win out: after this the Vols host North Texas, visit struggling Missouri and host Vanderbilt. Still, it's a "what-if" type season for UT as its four losses are by a combined 17 points. Three of the four are to excellent teams Oklahoma, Florida and Alabama, all in the Top 15 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Vols are off a 52-21 rout at Kentucky last Saturday. Tennessee broke it open in the third quarter when Evan Berry returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Star cornerback Cameron Sutton followed that shortly after with an 84-yard punt return touchdown. UT hadn't had kickoff and punt returns for scores in the same game since 1950. The Vols outscored the Wildcats 42-7 over a 15-minute span in the second and third quarters.
Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs was 16-for-26 for 233 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and also ran for 51 yards and two scores on seven carries. It was the third time in his career he had multiple passing and rushing scores. The 52 points were Tennessee's most in an SEC game since a 52-14 win over Ole Miss on Nov. 13, 2010.
UT is 5-3 ATS on college football picks and 5-3 O/U.
One of the more entertaining game of last season in SEC play was Tennessee's 45-42 overtime win at South Carolina, which also included one of the most impressive individual performances in both USC and UT history. The Vols were down 42-28 with 4:52 left. They cut it to seven on Dobbs' 3-yard touchdown run with 1:50 to go. The Tennessee defense quickly forced a three-and-out on USC's next possession and got Dobbs the ball back at the UT 15. He led an 85-yard drive and tied it on a 9-yard TD pass to Jason Croom with 11 seconds remaining. Tennessee got the ball first in OT and Aaron Medley made a 32-yard field goal. USC couldn't respond as QB Dylan Thompson was sacked twice and the Gamecocks missed a 58-yard field goal.
That was Dobbs' first start of last season and he threw for 301 yards and two scores while rushing 24 times for 160 yards (a school record for a QB) and three TDs. Jalen Hurd added 125 yards on 21 carries. UT had 645 yards of offense and USC 625. Wilds rushed eight times for 143 yards and two scores for the Gamecocks. Receiver Pharoh Cooper was everywhere: he caught 11 passes for 233 yards and two scores, rushed three times for 23 yards and a TD, and was 1-for-2 for 30 yards passing with a TD.
Butch Jones is 2-0 against the Gamecocks in as UT's head coach and both games have been decided by three points or less.
College Football Picks: Take the points and go 'over' at JustBet. Vols will win but that's too big a spread. UT is 7-3 ATS in its past 10 at home. The 'over' is 6-2-1 in the Vols' past nine at home. The road team is 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings.