6. South Carolina Gamecocks
Saturday, Oct. 26; Neyland Stadium; Knoxville, Tenn.
Almost beating the South Carolina Gamecocks on the road last year and now facing them at home this year bodes well for Tennessee football. In fact, if you look at how close they came, there’s a case to put Vanderbilt ahead of South Carolina.
However, while the Vols have lost three straight and five of seven to Vanderbilt, they have also lost three straight to South Carolina. And they are 0-7 all-time against Will Muschamp, arguably the most baffling stat in history.
Taking those two things into account, there’s no way that we can honestly say South Carolina is not one of the more difficult games along with Vanderbilt. Jake Bentley owns UT just as much as Kyle Shurmur did, and he is a senior this year.
South Carolina is somewhat of the bellwether game for the Vols this year. It’s a matchup between two schools led by former Nick Saban defensive coordinators in Muschamp and Jeremy Pruitt, and both are trying to take their programs to the next level. That’s why we have it in the middle of the pack of games this year.
The winner of this year’s game could set the standard for the trajectory of the two programs heading into the future. After all, there is only so much room for elite talent in the SEC East, and the even playing field between the two programs leads to this being a middle of the road matchup when it comes to difficulty.