Saturday, October 28, 2006

FIVE REASONS


1. The new Erik Ainge, same as the old Erik Ainge. Give David Cutcliffe credit for revitalizing the career of Erik Ainge, turning him into one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, if not the best, and one of the nation's elite. That's helped ...
2. Vols' scoring offense. Tennessee has scored -- gulp -- more than 32 points a game, including demolishing Georgia in Athens in a 51-33 rout that included 27 points in the final quarter. Notice -- those are all big numbers. (Stats, as usual, can be found here.) A 92 percent red-zone scoring rate doesn't hurt.
3. Home field disadvantage. Tennessee's one loss came in Knoxville. South Carolina's two losses came in Columbia, which is where the game will be played. Both teams have won all their road games. Go figure.
4. Tennessee is ranked. South Carolina has played precisely two teams that were ranked when they played them: Georgia and Auburn. They lost their games against? Yep, Georgia and Auburn.
5. Robert Meacham. Having the best year of any receiver in the SEC, with 40 catches for 762 yards and 6 TDs.


1. Spurrier owns Fulmer. Call it whatever you want, but the Head Ball Coach has an 8-3 record against the rotund one. As Morris points out (a phrase you won't often hear me use), that means something is up besides the usual suspects.
2. Syvelle Newton. I'm open to criticism that I've lavished too much praise on Newton. But look at what the young man has done. Before he took over, South Carolina had an unimpressive victory against Mississippi State and a disastrous loss to Georgia. After a slow start vs. Wofford, Newton promptly demolished Florida Atlantic, took Auburn to the wire, beat Kentucky on the road and easily dismissed Vandy.
3. Scoring defense. If Tennessee's offense is specatular, South Carolina's defense is stout. It's fourth in the league, allowing just 14 points a game. The one shortfall? The red zone, where opponents score almost 74 percent of the time.
4. Injuries. The Gamecocks are relatively healthy. Not so for the Vols, who have a hurt receiver and an injured starting running back.
5. A windy day. For once in his life, Spurrier can be thankful for the wind. It could -- and I stress the could -- slow down the passing game for the Vols. South Carolina is rushing for almost 20 more yards a game.

PREDICTION: Tennessee 28, USC 20

RECORD: 4-0; against SCORE (within one TD of each team's score): 1-3.

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