KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- South Carolina coach Lou Holtz sounds worried.
When the No. 12 Gamecocks visit ninth-ranked Tennessee on Saturday, Holtz says he doesn't know if his team will be ready. He doesn't think South Carolina's defense is very good and can't stop teams from converting on third down.
Holtz doesn't give his team much chance moving the ball against the Volunteers (4-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference). In fact, he sounds like he doesn't give the Gamecocks (6-1, 5-1) any chance to win at all.
"I think Tennessee is going to look at the film and feel like this is a very good football team, and we are not a good football team," Holtz said this week.
The Vols aren't buying Holtz's line even though South Carolina is 0-11 at Neyland Stadium.
"There's no weakness in offense or defense or in the kicking game categories," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said of South Carolina. "This is a great challenge for us."
Statistically, the teams are fairly even, except in rush defense and returning kicks.
Tennessee has held opponents to a league-best 70.8 yards on the ground per game, while the Gamecocks allow 139.4 yards.
South Carolina is better at returning kickoffs and averages 23.8 yards; returner Derek Watson averages 36.2 yards on nine returns so far. Tennessee is ranked last in the SEC with a 17.3-yard average.
The Gamecocks are perched atop the SEC East standings, ahead of Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, by virtue of having played more games. But all four have one SEC loss, and after Saturday two teams will rise above the others in the standings. Georgia and Florida play each other Saturday.
While the Vols have plenty to worry about, Fulmer doesn't talk about his concerns like Holtz does.
A loss this time of year to an SEC foe would likely knock any of those four teams out of the East division race.
"We don't say it exactly like that. We try to look at it like 'win it, and you're still in it,"' Fulmer said.
History is on the Vols' side.
Tennessee has beaten South Carolina eight straight times, including last year's dramatic comeback.
The Vols trailed 10-14 in the fourth quarter, and quarterback Casey Clausen led the winning drive that finished with Travis Henry's touchdown from 1 yard out with 26 seconds to go.
"It was really intense. They were talking about how they weren't going to be denied and the guys told them we weren't going to be denied. It was just a battle out there," Tennessee defensive tackle John Henderson said. "I think it came down to our offense and (defensive end) Will (Overstreet) making that sack to close the game out."
Overstreet, one of the Vols' best defensive players, was still listed as questionable for the game with an injured left knee.
While Holtz may be concerned about the way his team will respond to playing in a stadium where they have never won, all Tennessee has to do it look at what teams South Carolina has beaten.
The Gamecocks won at Georgia, and the Bulldogs turned around and beat the Vols in Knoxville three weeks ago. But South Carolina lost at Arkansas after Tennessee won there.
So the South Carolina players aren't as forlorn as their coach.
"We're playing a great team, we know that, they've got everybody back from last year," Gamecocks quarterback Phil Petty said. "We've got to go up there and play them in a very tough place. We're confident in our abilities to play the game."
On the Net:
South Carolina football: http://www.uscsports.com
Tennessee football: http://www.utsports.com