Tennessee football at South Carolina: Gamecocks expert talks about the game

Tennessee football visits South Carolina Saturday. Here’s what Garnet and Cocky site expert Kyle Zartman has to say about the Volunteers and Gamecocks.

There are many questions surrounding both teams when Tennessee football travels to Columbia to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks Saturday. With a new head coach and back to back games that involved a thrilling win and blowout loss, we know what the Vols are dealing with.

Meanwhile, South Carolina is coming off of a bye under Will Muschamp after a 3-3 start, and considering that’s a bit of a disappointment compared to the start of the year, he enters this game with many of his own questions. How does South Carolina view this game? What does it mean to their fans? What about their season?

We’ve covered extensively what this means for Tennessee football. So let’s take a look at this game from the perspective of the South Carolina Gamecocks. Kyle Zartman of Garnet and Cocky, the South Carolina website on the FanSided network, spoke with us in a roundtable discussion about the team he covers. Here are his answers to questions we have about the game.

1. After being dominated the 1990s and 2000s, South Carolina has gained the slight advantage on the Vols this decade. How do S.C. fans view this annual game against Tennessee in relation to other SEC East opponents like Florida, Georgia, etc.? 

​If you look at the series record, it has been complete domination by Tennessee. However, as you mentioned South Carolina has fared much better in recent years winning six out of the last ten. South Carolina is funny in a way that their true rival, Clemson, is not even in the same conference. That being said, I don’t think the game against Tennessee is seen the same way as the games vs. Georgia and Florida. I think it can get there, but not until both teams start being perennial winners again.

2. Has this season already been deemed a failure with the 3-3 start? If not how can South Carolina fans salvage it? 

​I wouldn’t say that this season has already been deemed a failure, but it’s approaching that. I think most fans would have thought the Gamecocks would be 5-1 or 4-2 at his point. Most didn’t have high hopes against Georgia, but you could argue that South Carolina should have beaten Texas A&M. However, the Gamecocks could have lost to Missouri, so it all evens out. The game against Tennessee is huge for South Carolina as their next two are on the road against Ole Miss and Florida.

3. What’s the current feeling about Will Muschamp in Columbia? He obviously got off to a solid start the first two years. Is there any concern that he didn’t take another major leap his third year with so much talent back?

​There is some concern, but not to the point that he is viewed as being on the hot seat. There were high expectations this year with a lot of returning starters. I think most fans can clearly see that shaky quarterback play and a ton of drops by the receiving corps are really to blame. Both of those factors contributed to the loss against Texas A&M. I would say that if you listen to most South Carolina social media, the only concern over Will Muschamp is his unwavering allegiance to Jake Bentley.

4. South Carolina was banged up heading into its off-week. Coming off the bye, where did the Gamecocks get their biggest boost health-wise? Are they still vulnerable in the passing game due to injuries? What about elsewhere?

You would have to say the biggest boost for the Gamecocks is getting D. J. Wonnum back. He has been a force that the Gamecocks’ defense has missed. That being said, they will definitely miss Nick Harvey and J. T. Ibe, both of whom have already been ruled out for Saturday night. This could make South Carolina a little more vulnerable in the passing game, but Wonnum coming back should add to the pass rush, and will hopefully even out the injuries in the secondary.

5. What’s your prediction for the game Saturday night?

​The last six games of the series are split 3-3 with the largest margin of victory being 6 points. That is pretty remarkable. Both teams are evenly matched and I definitely think it will be another close one. With it being at Williams-Brice Stadium, and a night game, I think the Gamecocks will be pumped up from the start. If they can get out to an early lead, something they’ve had trouble doing this year, it could be a blowout. I think it will stay close throughout, but I see South Carolina pulling out a victory, 27-21.

Next: Tennessee-South Carolina: 10 keys to the game

If you look at our predictions, we both have the same score. Tennessee football loses 27-21 to the South Carolina Gamecocks. Injuries and Will Muschamp could become a concern, based on these answers, but they’re not there yet. It sounds like both sides are excited for another night-game kickoff between these two schools. And both are expecting a thriller once again.