The Vols were better than many expected against Alabama last Saturday. After knocking Tua Tagovailoa from the Bama lineup, Tennessee hung around for most of the game before eventually falling 35-13 to the No. 1 team in the country. Next up is a winnable game against a 3-4 South Carolina team that has some strange results on its 2019 résumé.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Figure out the QB situation
It seems like this is a weekly key for the Vols but the inability to keep a quarterback healthy is becoming a big issue. Freshman Brian Maurer has now sustained concussions in back-to-back weeks. That should really be more than enough to keep him out of this game and get Maurer rested up for games further on down the line.
If Maurer doesn’t play then it will probably be Jarrett Guarantano again. This is far from certain, however, after Guarantano was pulled in the fourth quarter against Bama after fumbling on what appears to have been a self-called hero play. Next up, in that case, would be the only other scholarship QB on the roster in J.T. Shrout.
Trouble Ryan Hilinski
It isn’t like the Gamecocks passing offense is in any better shape than that of the Vols. After star starter Jake Bentley went down with a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot on the final play of the South Carolina opener, the coaching staff turned to freshman Ryan Hilinksi. Hilinski made a great start – he passed for 323 yards and two scores against Alabama – yet he has only passed 200 yards through the air in one other game (Charleston Southern).
Hilinski is a player the Vols can get after with pressure from the front seven. If they do then this becomes a very winnable game.
Stop the run
The key to winning this game will be stopping the South Carolina running attack. Tavien Feaster is the leading rusher with almost 500 yards on the season and he rushes at an impressive 6.0 yards per carry.
Hilinski isn’t good enough to beat Tennessee. Jeremy Pruitt needs to make this Gamecocks offense one dimensional as early as possible and then reap the rewards as a Tennessee coach finally beats a Will Muschamp team.