SC at TENN Preview
Knoxville, TN - South Carolina has earned most of its wins this season without much flair.
The 21st-ranked Gamecocks, though, will take any kind of victory they can get Saturday night at Tennessee, where they've won once in 14 tries.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Tennessee -6 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 53% of bets for this game have been placed on Tennessee -6 (View College Football bet percentages).
South Carolina (6-2, 3-2 SEC) eked out a 14-10 home victory last week against Vanderbilt on Stephen Garcia's 43-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey early in the fourth quarter and an intentional grounding penalty that effectively ended a Commodores' comeback in South Carolina territory.
"It was just a good victory for us. We're proud of our players," coach Steve Spurrier said. "We didn't play all that great , but we hung in there."
South Carolina's previous two conference victories were by a combined eight points against Kentucky and No. 24 Mississippi, and the Gamecocks opened the season with a 7-3 win at North Carolina State.
That victory is South Carolina's lone road win since Oct. 11, 2008, at Kentucky. The Gamecocks have lost at SEC rivals Georgia on Sept. 12 and Alabama on Oct. 17.
In contrast, South Carolina started its current seven-game home win streak by beating the Volunteers 27-6 last season.
Garcia threw for a pair of touchdowns as the Gamecocks built a 21-0 halftime lead in that game, but they face an improving Tennessee team that nearly upset then-No. 1 Alabama on the road last week.
In a 12-10 loss, the Volunteers (3-4, 1-3) had a pair of field goals blocked in fourth quarter, including one as time expired, and Daniel Lincoln missed another from 47 yards just before halftime.
Tennessee also outgained Alabama 341-256.
"It's a difficult loss to deal with,'' first-year coach Lane Kiffin said. "You come into a hostile environment and play the No. 1 team in the country, as I said before by far the No. 1 team in the country and the best-coached team around. You come in here and outgain them by (nearly) 100 yards and miss three field goals.
"I don't believe in moral victories. We should have won that game."
Since a slow start in which he had five touchdowns and seven interceptions in his first three games, Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton has averaged 264 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions. Crompton, however, was 5 of 8 for 39 yards in last season's loss to the Gamecocks.
Garcia finished with 312 yards in beating Vanderbilt - one yard shy of his season high - and he's thrown at least two touchdown passes in three of the last four games.
The emergence of Jeffrey as a top-flight threat has helped Garcia flourish. The freshman, who had a season-best eight catches and 161 yards against Vanderbilt, has 382 of his 443 yards in the past three games and has scored all five of his touchdowns in the last four contests.
During an early furor after his hiring, Kiffin allegedly told Jeffrey he would "end up pumping gas" if he signed with South Carolina. Spurrier also questioned if the new Tennessee coach had violated a recruiting rule by not taking a required NCAA test.
"If Steve's concerned about my test, I got a 39 out of 40," Kiffin responded. "I'd like to see what he got."
It could be a difficult night for Crompton and Garcia as each will face two of the better pass defenses in the country. South Carolina ranks third in allowing 141.3 yards per game, and Tennessee is No. 6 (155.9 ypg) behind All-American safety Eric Berry.
The Volunteers are also 10th in total defense, giving up an average of 269.7 yards, while the Gamecocks are 14th (288.9 ypg).
Tennessee has not allowed an offensive touchdown in its past two games, while South Carolina allowed its only TD last week on a 99-yard kickoff return.
With his next victory, Spurrier will tie former Mississippi coach Johnny Vaught with 106 SEC wins. Spurrier led South Carolina to its only victory at Neyland Stadium, 16-15 on Oct. 29, 2005 - his first season with the school.
Lincoln spoiled the veteran coach's chance for another win in South Carolina's previous trip to Knoxville on Oct. 27, 2007, kicking a tying 48-yard field goal with five seconds left and adding a 27-yarder in a 27-24 overtime win.
Spurrier is 11-7 all-time against the Volunteers but 2-2 with the Gamecocks.
In addition to its home dominance of South Carolina, Tennessee leads the series 21-4-2.
Posted: 10/27/09 8:30PM ET