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October 28, 2010

USC-Tennessee: Key Matchups

GamecockCentral.com breaks down the key matchups for South Carolina's game against Tennessee. At what position will the game be decided?

Devin Taylor vs. Matt Simms

The Volunteers have given up more sacks (25) than any team in the league, and Taylor is the team’s leader and third in the SEC in giving sacks (6.5). The quiet redshirt sophomore has emerged as USC’s best pass-rush threat, a problem that existed in the early season before Taylor took his hand out of the dirt and played a couple of steps past the defensive line. Tennessee has little experience and zero depth on the offensive line, starting two freshmen on the right side, and Taylor will doubtless have boundless opportunities to improve his total. Tennessee is a running team and will try to get rid of the ball quickly so Simms doesn’t have to throw, so even if Taylor plunges through and finds Simms doesn’t have the ball, he may be able to crack a running back for a loss.

Travian Robertson vs. Tauren Poole

The main source of Tennessee’s offense, Poole is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and is only 5 yards away from 600 for the season. He’ll probably get to that total, but it will be up to Robertson and his mates on the line to make sure it’s not much beyond that. Robertson is having a very good season, with 26 tackles, including seven for loss, and almost single-handedly shut down Vanderbilt’s run-option last week. He will have the chance to stuff another Tennessee team this week and will be going up against a patchwork line, which should be little to no match for a seasoned SEC veteran.

Stephon Gilmore vs. Luke Stocker

Gilmore has been named to several mid-season awards lists, and USC is distributing literature promoting him for All-America, but let’s be honest �" Gilmore hasn’t been that terrific. Not many have dared to throw to his side, but on plays where they have, especially lately, Gilmore hasn’t been at his post. He is second on the team with 39 tackles and has one of the team’s three interceptions, but has often been busted by short passes and then guilty of not wrapping up the ball-handler. When the Vols throw, they like the reliable Stocker, another tight end who is destined for the NFL. He’s their top guy in receptions per game, but his 19 catches have only gone for 194 yards. It’s a good bet that he will be getting the ball over the middle, or on the sideline, and Gilmore guards one sideline.

Patrick DiMarco vs. Nick Reveiz

Marcus Lattimore says he’s ready after taking last week off, and USC will doubtless give him the ball early and often. While Lattimore can get through the first line of defense with a few shifts and jukes, he also likes to have a sturdy blocker in front of him �" that’s where DiMarco comes in. Reveiz, the Vols’ middle linebacker and leading tackler, will be waiting for a back to come at him, and DiMarco will be entrusted to take him out. Lattimore has been very adept at getting something on every carry, but he will be able to get a lot more if DiMarco can knock out the biggest obstacle in the way.

Hutch Eckerson vs. Gerald Williams

Williams lines up at left end and tries to blitz, quarterbacks able to see him coming but Williams still holding 2.5 sacks and four tackles for loss. Stephen Garcia, who eliminated the blitz vs. Vanderbilt with a short passing game, will be depending on Eckerson, his right tackle, to keep Williams in place. Eckerson is having a good season as a member of the offensive line, all of them not destined for individual awards but combining together to present a much, much better effort than in years past. If that keeps up, Garcia should be able to do whatever he would like.

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