The Tennessee Volunteers (2-5) travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks (5-2) this weekend. South Carolina still has a shot to win the East, and Tennessee is fighting for a bowl-berth. Here are five things you need to know about Tennessee vs South Carolina:
1. Get Lattimore healthy. South Carolina freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has to get healthy and get back on the field quickly. He was held out of last week’s game against Vanderbilt. Not only is Lattimore a great between-the-tackle runner, but he is also a potent receiver out of the backfield for the Gamecocks. Steve Spurrier needs to feed this kid the ball – whether in the running game or the passing game.
2. Tennessee needs to win a game. The Vols need to buckle-down and get a W, plain and simple. They have lost five out of the last six games. This team needs to find itself, and they need to grind out a win. Yeah, Derek Dooley may not have the talent, but every blind squirrel finds a nut, and Tennessee football needs to find that nut right now.
3. South Carolina needs to use Lattimore and Maddox together in the ball game. Brian Maddox filled in for the injured Lattimore last weekend, and he had a career day, rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown. With Marcus Lattimore being potent in both the running game and the passing game, they can find a way to get both of these backs in the game at the same time. The Gamecocks can have a nice 1-2 punch in the running game. If they can run the football, this game could end up looking like the Alabama/Tennessee game last weekend.
4. The Vols defense has to put a complete game together. The defense plays great the first half, but they seem to just shut it down in the second half this year. It has happened against Oregon, and it happened last week against Alabama. The defense desperately needs to put a complete game together. They are currently last in the SEC in total defense. Their struggles are most likely more from lack of depth than talent. However, the Vols need to dig deep and grind out a win in the second half this year.
5. Keep Alshon Jeffery involved in the game plan. Jeffery is one of the most talented receivers in the country. Quarterback Stephen Garcia has done a pretty good job this year getting the football to Jeffery – good things happen when the football finds its way to Jeffery. Jeffery is a definitely mismatch against virtually every defensive back in the conference. Tennessee defensive back Art Evans was abused last week by Julio Jones, and I look for South Carolina to exploit him again.