Is this a bigger game for Tennessee or South Carolina?
Tennessee at South Carolina
Saturday November 1, 2014 | Columbia, SC | 7:30pm EDT | SEC Network
Last season’s shining star was Tennessee’s upset of ninth-ranked South Carolina 23-21 on a last-second field goal. But it wasn’t enough to get the Vols to a bowl. Saturday, Tennessee (3-5; 0-4) travels to Columbia having to win three of its last four games to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2010. And if they don’t, 2014 will be a fifth straight losing season for the Vols, the longest such drought in program history.
Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks (4-4; 2-4) have a bit at stake themselves. They need to win half of their remaining games to go bowling. Not making a bowl game would break the OBC’s streak of nine seasons with a bowl-eligible season at South Carolina.
Last week, South Carolina came close to upsetting sixth-ranked Auburn, and Tennessee outscored Alabama 20-7 after being behind 0-27 early in the second quarter.
So both teams are coming off of losses to better opponents, and both the Vols and Gamecocks have a lot at stake in the 2014 edition of a series where the average margin of victory has been 8+ points since 2000, the narrowest in any SEC series. And it’s been a while since the Vols have beaten South Carolina down in Columbia — you have to go back to 2006 for Tennessee’s last win (31-24) in the Palmetto State.
So, which team has more at stake Saturday night?
You would think it was the Gamecocks based on their decision to wear all-black uniforms this week, both jerseys and pants. As Spurrier said this week, “Maybe it’ll put a little inspiration in our guys, who knows. We need something to get us a little bit more motivated.” Three straight conference losses aren’t sitting well with the OBC. So South Carolina will don the black tops and black pants combo for the first time since 2009 when they lost to Florida (24-14). They last wore black jerseys (but with white pants) against Auburn in 2011 and also wore them against the Vols in 2008 in a game that was perhaps the last straw for Phil Fulmer as Vols head coach. But the Gamecocks have lost five of their last six games wearing the black tops.
For the Vols, this week isn’t about uniforms (personally I hope I never see the Smokey Grays again). Instead, it’s about an offense that suddenly sprang to life under third-string QB Josh Dobbs. Last week, the Sophomore signal caller led his team to a season high in rushing yards, and his style of play completely took Nick Saban’s team (at Saban’s admission) off guard as they were completely unprepared for a Dobbs-lead attack in Knoxville last week.
The chances of Spurrier and Co. being unprepared for Dobbs and Co. this week is zero.
So maybe the Vols should counter and wear black, too… remember when Kiffin and Tennessee did a Halloween night upset special of South Carolina? Yes. And those were the most hideous jerseys I’ve ever seen. On any team.
But enough about apparel. This is a bigger game for Tennessee and Butch Jones who really must get to six wins and a bowl to stave off the wolves who are beginning to be heard off in the distance calling for immediate improvement. The honeymoon is effectively over for Jones and his staff. We’ve now entered the second phase of the Butch Era that demands winning seasons. Or else.
I’m afraid that Tennessee will have to win its final three games this season in order to play more football in December.
Josh Dobbs is not the ticket, yet, and is certainly no longer a surprise factor.
South Carolina 34 Tennessee 27