Originally created 09/27/03

College football gameday



GAME OF THE WEEK

South Carolina (3-1, 0-1 SEC) at No. 8 Tennessee (3-0, 1-0 SEC)

WHERE: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

WHEN: 7:45 p.m.

TV: ESPN

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: These two teams have played each other closely the past three years, with Tennessee winning by a total of 18 points. South Carolina has lost 10 straight to the Volunteers after winning 24-23 in 1992, and Tennessee had dominated the Gamecocks in Knoxville until escaping with a 17-10 win there two years ago.

WHAT YOU SHOULD WATCH: South Carolina's defensive line. The interior has been beset by injuries, with starting nose guard Preston Thorne out after suffering a career-threatening knee injury last week against Alabama-Birmingham. Backup nose guard Brandon Schweitzer has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, leaving 5-foot-11, 275-pound Natron Scott - a walk-on - next in line. If the Vols' offensive line can have its way early, it could be a long night for the Gamecocks.

WHOM YOU SHOULD WATCH: South Carolina quarterback Dondrial Pinkins. After failing miserably in a loss to Georgia two weeks ago, Pinkins rebounded in last week's easy win despite a few hiccups. The jury is still out on whether Pinkins' decision-making has improved enough to move the ball consistently against a defense of Tennessee's caliber.

AT STAKE: For the Gamecocks, who seem to have regressed the past two years, this isn't as big a game as it used to be because it might not be as winnable as it used to be. Tennessee has shown evidence of elevating its program to the level it enjoyed throughout the 1990s, while South Carolina is hoping for a seven-win season. Ultimately, the Gamecocks' biggest games this season will be their more winnable games. Tonight's tilt as a 16-point underdog doesn't seem to fit in that category.

HE SAID IT: "We knew if we could shut the running game down and the young quarterbacks had to win the game for them, we were going to win. That was our plan going in." - Tennessee linebacker Robert Peace, after last week's 24-10 win at Florida.

WE SAID IT: Tennessee might not be as good as some people are saying after beating a Florida team that could end up 6-6 or worse. Still, the Vols have their typical advantages in talent and depth over the Gamecocks, and that should be enough. For South Carolina, the problem is moving and protecting the football. The hunch here is that the Gamecocks haven't improved enough to do either consistently. Pinkins was a liability in this kind of setting two weeks ago, and it's tough to imagine things being much different in front of more than 100,000 fans and a national television audience.

AROUND THE ACC AND SEC

Georgia Tech (1-3, 0-2 ACC) at Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2 SEC) WHERE: Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

WHEN: 7 p.m.

TV: Comcast pay-per-view

THE STORYLINES: Georgia Tech looks to rebound after last week's demoralizing 39-3 loss to Clemson. ... The Yellow Jackets beat the Commodores 45-3 last year in Atlanta. ... Georgia Tech receiver Jonathan Smith has 22 catches for 355 yards. He had 36 for 430 last season. ... The Yellow Jackets have not allowed a touchdown on the opponent's opening drive in 34 straight games. ... Georgia Tech is 82nd nationally in turnover margin, and Vanderbilt is 99th. ... The Commodores lost 30-14 at TCU last week. Their lone victory this season came over Tennessee-Chattanooga (51-6). ... Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler passed for a career-high 250 yards against TCU. ... Georgia Tech linebacker Keyaron Fox ranks second in the ACC with 12.5 tackles per game. Defensive end Eric Henderson leads the ACC with 1.25 sacks per game. ... Commodores receiver Erik Davis is averaging 21.17 yards per catch. ... Georgia Tech is 111th nationally in scoring offense (11.5), 108th in rushing offense (88.7), 93rd in pass offense (168.0) and 112th in total offense (256.7).

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Georgia Tech will try to jump start an offense that is mired in a gruesome funk. Vanderbilt's defense isn't the steel curtain, but it is capable of frustrating the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech doesn't have the depth offensively to move the ball effectively against good teams such as Florida State and Clemson, but the Yellow Jackets should be able to be productive against the Commodores. Cutler can't stretch the field like Clemson quarterback Charlie Whitehurst can, but he's a smart quarterback who can beat the Yellow Jackets with his feet if they're not disciplined.

AT STAKE: Losing in embarrassing fashion last week wounded Georgia Tech's psyche, and a loss today could obliterate it. No one expected the Yellow Jackets to win 10 games this season, but not many people saw them losing to Vanderbilt, either. Georgia Tech can still have a respectable season if it wins five or six games. Without a win today, that would be next to impossible.

UT-Chattanooga (0-4, 0-0 SoCon) at Georgia Southern (1-2, 0-1) WHERE: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Ga.

WHEN: 6 p.m.

TV: None

THE STORYLINES: Georgia Southern tries to get a victory after losing consecutive games to McNeese State (34-15) and Wofford (20-14). ... The Eagles started 1-2 last season and ended up making the playoffs. ... The Mocs have won just once against Georgia Southern since the two teams began playing in 1984. ... The Eagles have 11 turnovers, including eight fumbles. The Eagles have recovered six of their own fumbles. ... Against Wofford, Georgia Southern didn't score on four possessions that passed the Terriers' 25-yard line. ... The Mocs lost 23-13 last week at Gardner-Webb.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Chattanooga could be missing several starters to injury, including quarterback Matt Lopez, running back Jason Jones and center Chris Cook.

AT STAKE: The Eagles shouldn't have much trouble against a team that has little depth or confidence. Georgia Southern needs a spark on offense. The Eagles are averaging 100 fewer rushing yards and 14 fewer first downs than last year, and the turnovers are a big reason why. Getting the offense rolling is a must if the Eagles hope to gather enough momentum to mount another impressive run to the playoffs.

OTHER SEC GAMES Florida (2-2) at Kentucky (2-2) 12:30 p.m.-Thirteen true freshmen have played for the Gators - a school record.

Arkansas (3-0) at Alabama (2-2) 3:30 p.m.-Think Georgia's coaches might be watching this one?

Western Kentucky (3-0) at Auburn (1-2) 5 p.m.-The Tigers can still be a factor in the SEC West.

Texas Tech (2-1) at Mississippi (2-1) 7 p.m.-Hard to figure why this game wasn't picked up by TV.

LSU (4-0) at Mississippi State (0-3) 9 p.m.-The Bulldogs are giving up more than 500 yards per game. And they haven't even begun SEC play.

OTHER ACC GAMES North Carolina (0-3) at N.C. State (2-2) 2 p.m.-History says this game will be close. Common sense says it won't.

Wake Forest (3-1) at Virginia (2-1) 3:30 p.m.-These are two of the best teams nationally in turnover margin.

Maryland (2-2) at Eastern Michigan (1-3) 6 p.m.-The Terps lead the ACC in rushing with 181.8 yards per game.

Florida State (4-0) at Duke (2-2) 7 p.m.-Crossing the 50-yard line might be an accomplishment for the Blue Devils.

NATIONAL GAME OF THE WEEK No. 21 Washington State at No. 10 Oregon 3:30 p.m.-It's this weekend's only Top 25 matchup.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS 11-Sacks of Georgia Tech quarterback Reggie Ball the past two games

11.4-Yards per carry by Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones

47.9-Yards per punt by Tennessee's Dustin Colquitt

THE LAST WORD "In case you haven't noticed, we don't kick off that far." - South Carolina coach Lou Holtz, on a 51-yard field goal by Tennessee's James Wilhoit in last week's win over Florida