The week leading up to the Vols’ trip to Columbia, S.C. has been eventful. There has been somewhat of a quarterback controversy, a surprise position move and devastating news involving one of Tennessee’s best players. However, the Vols head to Williams-Brice Stadium looking to avenge a two-game losing streak to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Here are five bold predictions:
1. Jeremy Banks Contributes To A Turnover
Jeremy Banks contributing on a turnover doesn’t sound surprising, right? What is a surprise is that he is switching from running back to linebacker. The Cordova product looked promising at times in the backfield, but had some fumbling issues. To everyone’s surprise, the running back requested the move. Problems holding on to the football coupled with a need at linebacker makes this a logical move for the freshman. He certainly has not lacked in toughness and tenacity. My bold prediction is that he not only plays on defense vs. South Carolina, but he contributes to a turnover somehow. My guess is that it is a forced fumble, considering his style of play. Either way, he reverses his turnover fortune in the positive and provides a spark for the defense.
2. Chandler Comes Up Big
Tennessee’s best weapon on offense is Ty Chandler. It seems the more he touches the ball, the more dynamic he becomes. The Vols would be wise to keep feeding him either through the air or ground. He averages two receptions and around 11 rushing attempts per game. For Tennessee to win this game, he will have to go over both of those numbers. The key for Chandler is a heavy dose of receptions. He didn’t have any receptions through his first three games played. All 12 of his catches have come from the last three, averaging four per game. I think this trend continues. The play calls will be designed to get Chandler at least 20 touches. I think he gets five receptions and 15 rushes that will equate to at least 150 total yards.
3. Offensive Line Will Have Its Best Performance To Date
The devastating news of the week involved standout Trey Smith. Fox Sports Knoxville’s Trey Wallace reported Thursday that Smith will be out indefinitely with a reoccurring blood clot issue. The offensive line has seen their fair share of struggles all year. The good news is it was made progress, albeit progressively. The bad news is the Vols’ weakest unit just lost its best player. Smith was revered by his teammates and I ultimately think they rally for him in this game. Tennessee is actually only giving up two sacks per game, which puts them in a tie for 55th in the country. South Carolina has only contributed to 10 all year. The Gamecock defense is also giving up nearly 180 yards per game on the ground. Moving the ball on this defense is doable. The offensive line unit will lead the Vols to a stellar rushing attack which will result in their best rushing average to date against a conference opponent.
4. Vols Win.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is undefeated against the Vols. Between his time at Florida and now South Carolina, he has somehow mustered up a 6-0 record against Tennessee. They have all been highly-contested games. Don’t expect that to change, just expect a different result in the win/loss column. Jeremy Pruitt broke an 11-game conference losing streak against Auburn two weeks ago. That win looks much better after Auburn demolished Ole Miss. I think he continues breaking streaks this Saturday. Not only do the Vols win, but they do so by more than a touchdown. MyBookie currently lists the Vols as an eight and-a-half point underdog. Once again, Pruitt demolishes an underdog spread.
5. Chryst Will Start
I have had suspicion that Keller Chryst will make his first start for the Vols this week. The line movement in the past day or so only enhances that suspicion. Smith’s injury is also probably a factor, but I don’t think that value is worth a whole point. I think Pruitt starts Chryst out of precautionary concerns for Jarrett Guarantano. Think about it. If the redshirt sophomore is in fact physically limited, he is going to be needed down the stretch. If Tennessee can get by with Chryst for this game, they effectively have a bye next week against Charlotte. Regardless of the outcome of the South Carolina game, one would have to feel good about Tennessee’s chances with a healthy Guarantano and two out of three games at home to finish the season to try to get to a bowl game.
As mentioned earlier this week, Chryst is merely a safer and slightly different option. The key word here is safer. Guarantano clearly has more potential, but potential sometimes doesn’t grant you immediate satisfaction. The bottom line is that this South Carolina team is fool’s gold in this game. I believe Chryst will rise to the occasion and manage the game quite well for the Vols. The Stanford graduate transfer gets his first win in as many starts for the Vols.