South Carolina football: Week one preview versus Tennessee

Bryan Edwards #89 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Bryan Edwards #89 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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South Carolina football is gearing up for its season opener.

The South Carolina football team will take on No. 16 Tennessee tonight in a primetime matchup to start its all-SEC slate in 2020. The Vols are riding a one-game series winning streak after taking down the Gamecocks 41-21 in Knoxville last year. The win snapped a three-game skid to the Gamecocks, as Will Muschamp lost to the Volunteers for the first time in his head coaching career.

This has been an extremely tight rivalry over the last two decades, with Tennessee holding a slight 12-8 advantage in its last 20 meetings with South Carolina. Of the 20 matchups, 14 have been decided by one score or less, including seven of the last eight.

Look out for another close contest as the Gamecocks try to get back into the win column. The winner of the early season matchup gets a leg up on the SEC eastern division race, as well as a little confidence heading into week two.

Here’s what you need to know leading up to the Gamecocks’ first game.


The Vols and Gamecocks experienced two vastly different seasons in 2019. Tennessee started the year 2-5, taking out of conference losses from Georgia State and BYU. However, the Volunteers hit their stride in a late October matchup with South Carolina, rolling to a 20-point victory. The win sparked what would become a six-game winning streak that culminated with a 23-22 win over Indiana in the Gator Bowl.

Tennessee returns quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, who’s played 34 career games under center. Over the last two seasons, he’s completed over 60% of his passes for a total of more than 4,000 yards. Filling out the backfield are Eric Gray and Ty Chandler, who should post some big numbers behind a Tennessee offensive line that looks to be the best unit on the team. The running game will hope to take some pressure off of a passing attack that’s got some question marks at wide receiver.

The Gamecocks, on the other hand, started last year 3-3, highlighted by an upset of third-ranked Georgia in Athens. After that victory, though, South Carolina faltered, losing five of its last six games. The offense scored just one touchdown over its final three contests, which signaled the end for offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon.

In comes Mike Bobo, who takes over play calling duties after five seasons as head coach with Colorado State. He brings with him Collin Hill, a South Carolina native that threw for more than 3,300 yards with the Rams. Hill won the quarterback battle over incumbent Ryan Hilinski and will take the first snap under center on Saturday night.

There are question marks all along the skill positions for the Gamecocks, as little experience returns at either wideout or running back. Not to say that the units can’t be productive, but we’ve yet to see it on the field for now. The strength of the team should be the offensive line, which will hopefully open up some holes for the young Carolina tailbacks. Play at tight end could also play a factor as coach Bobo looks to find mismatches against the Volunteer defense.

Both teams’ defenses should hold an advantage over the opposing offenses, which means we may be in for a low scoring affair.