The No. 16 Tennessee Vols get their season underway on Saturday when they travel to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Here are the three keys to an opening day win:
By Steve Wright
Be ready for a new offense
South Carolina will be running a new offensive system this season under first-year offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. Bobo was formerly the head coach at Colorado State and he has his QB from last year with him in Columbia in the form of grad transfer Collin Hill. Hill beat out incumbent starter Ryan Hilinski in a surprising move to be the opening day starter in large part because he is more familiar with the offense. This familiarity is going to make Hill a much more dangerous opponent and the Tennessee defensive will have to game plan for a different type of attack than the one they faced against South Carolina in a 41-21 win last season.
Win the rushing battle
The win in this one will come with whichever team runs the ball best. The lack of true preparation for the season means that the running game will be further along than the timing and chemistry focused passing attacks of each side. Tennessee has a deep and experienced offensive line that should get dominant push against the South Carolina defensive front. Add in that the Gamecocks lost MarShawn Lloyd – a player who was supposed to key their running attack – to a torn ACL last month and it would suggest that the Vols have the advantage on the ground here.
This is going to be a common theme for the keys section in 2020. Guarantano is a quarterback that can either take this Tennessee team to a dominant season or one that flames out to nothing better than mediocre. He is tough, cocky, and confident, traits that you need in a top-level quarterback. When he is on then Guarantano can be one of the best in the country, but when he is off this Vols team is going to flounder. If Guarantano can start the season off well and ride the confidence then that will be huge to the Vols dreams of an SEC East crown.
Saturday‘s game kicks off at 6:30 PM CT (7:30 PM ET). Watch on the SEC Network.