Tennessee vs. South Carolina Odds - Free Pick ATS

September 26, 7:30 PM EDT

Betting Odds

Point Spread: 
UT -3.5 /SC +3.5
44.5un -115

Football returns in the SEC this week with an intriguing showdown in Columbia when the South Carolina Gamecocks host the no. 16 Tennessee Volunteers at Williams-Brice Stadium. Last year, the Vols took a step forward in Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt's 2nd season in RockyTop. The Volunteers closed out the season with six straight wins, including a close 23-22 victory over Indiana in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. The winning streak was the Vols longest single-season mark since 2015, which has helped catapult expectations going into 2020. However, are those expectations truly warranted?

The Volunteers were 4 point underdogs last year against South Carolina but put a 41-21 thumping on the Gamecocks, which started that six-game winning streak. Despite the strong finish, the Vols were only 8-5 SU on the season with notable blowout losses to Florida, Georgia, and Alabama. This is also the same team that fell to Georgia State and BYU in unthinkable fashion in the opening two weeks of the season. So, where does all the optimism come from? The Vols have several key players returning this year, and their strong 2nd half of 2019 helps in terms of style points. However, I do not believe the Volunteers have a 16th ranked caliber football team based on talent, and more importantly, I think the Gamecocks will give them a strong challenge this Saturday.

Vols on upset alert against South Carolina

I mentioned that Tennessee suffered an unthinkable upset loss to Georgia State last year in the opener, and Pruitt's teams have been known to be slow-starters. In recent weeks, the Vols have been struck by the COVID-19 issues, which we have seen throughout several teams. At one point, Tennessee had as many as 44 players out of action within the last couple weeks, and you have to believe that will have some negative impact in their preparation. Tennessee returns quarterback Jarrett Guarantano following a 2019 campaign that featured 16 touchdowns and eight picks. I have seen many "experts" predict a big season from Guarantano, but I can't say that I agree. The Vols struggled heavily on the offensive line last year, and their quarterback has also struggled consistently with accuracy issues.

The best thing Tennessee has going in this opening match-up against South Carolina is the play of their defense. The Volunteers were one of the most improved defensive teams in the SEC last year, and there is legitimate optimism that they can have similar results again. From a pure match-up standpoint, the Vols have size and speed concerns among the defensive front that is concerning for South Carolina. The Gamecocks were heavily focused on running the football under previous OC Bryan McClendon, and I imagine they will find it tough to run the football against Tennessee. Fortunately for Gamecocks fans, new OC Mike Bobo promises to provide more ingenuity on the offensive side of the ball.

QB Collin Hill to start for South Carolina

Last year, South Carolina turned to freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinksi when Jake Bentley went down with an injury. Though the offense struggled, Hilinski was pretty decent behind center, which made last week's announcement rather surprising when Head Coach Will Muschamp announced Collin Hill would be the starter. Hill is a graduate transfer from Colorado State and spent the last few years under new OC Mike Bobo. With experience in the system, Hill won the starting job this fall and will look to ignite a Gamecocks offense that combined for just 21 points over their final three games in 2019.

The Gamecocks lost freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd to an ACL injury this fall. Lloyd was a highly touted recruit that was expected to give South Carolina an immediate upgrade at the position. Deshaun Fenwick may get the starting nod with Lloyd's absence, but nothing has been publicly stated. The Gamecocks lost their top 3 rushers from 2019, and Lloyd's injury definitely hurt the backfield's outlook. South Carolina will need someone to step-up to help journeymen Collin Hill if this offense is going to see better days.

Vols vs. Gamecocks Prediction 9/26/20

I'm not convinced that the Vols are deserving of the high expectations this season and are not overvalued as they typically are in the preseason. The Gamecocks are live for the upset, and I think they get the job done in a low-scoring game.
Free Pick: 
South Carolina +3.5
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