COLUMBIA - The loss won't soon be forgotten. It can't be.
All that stood between South Carolina and a berth in the SEC Championship game last season was one shocking loss at Tennessee. One walk-off field goal. One defensive stand.
Two yards on USC's final possession.
Even now, it's hard to understand how USC could lose to that rendition of Tennessee. These are not the powerhouse Volunteers, with Phil Fulmer and Peyton Manning and SEC titles. They were - and remain - a rebuilding program.
So don't expect South Carolina to overlook Tennessee this season, even with a bye week looming after the two teams meet Nov. 1. The Vols may struggle this fall, but the Gamecocks know the Vols can beat them. Here's what to expect from Tennessee.
Coach: Butch Jones (5-7, fourth season)
Returning starters: 10 (five offensive, five defensive)
2013 record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC; sixth place SEC East
Scoring offense: 23.8 points per game (96th in the country)
Scoring defense: 29 points against per game (79th in the country)
Series: South Carolina trails 23-7-2
Last meeting: As noted above, South Carolina lost to Tennessee 23-21 last season at Neyland Stadium. It wasn't Mike Davis' fault. The Gamecocks tailback had 137 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. It's also worth noting South Carolina is 3-1 against Tennessee at home during the Steve Spurrier era, and it has won the past three home games.
Three things to know about Tennessee
1. Scary September: Tennessee's season gets off to an easy enough start, with home games against Utah State and Arkansas State. Then the Vols have one of the most difficult stretches any team in the country will face this season. They'll close September traveling to Oklahoma and Georgia in consecutive games. For context, both are ranked in the top 8 in Athlon's preseason poll. Thank God Tennessee has a bye week separating the two road trips. I'm not sure how else Butch Jones could cope.
2. Historical rut: Tennessee has been playing football since 1891. One could easily argue the Vols are in their worst stretch in history. They've finished with losing records in four straight seasons. They haven't finished more than a game above .500 in six straight seasons. It's the first time in school history either streak has happened.
3. Free falling: Tennessee's offense was woeful last season, and that was while the Vols had one of the nation's most talented offensive lines and stud tailback Rajion Neal. Neither will return this season, leaving the question: how will Tennessee score? Any success the Vols create on offense has to start at quarterback. Problem is, Tennessee is spending its summer in the midst of a four-man quarterback battle that won't end anytime soon.
Gamecocks schedule glimpse
Week before: at Auburn
Next week: bye
On the horizon: at Florida
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