Pasquali's Pix: Gamecocks will extend Muschamp's success against Tennessee

Pasquali's Pix: Gamecocks will extend Muschamp's success against Tennessee

October 12th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - Columns

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp, left, has led the Gamecocks to four wins in the first half of his second season leading the program. They travel to play Tennessee on Saturday.

Photo by Sean Rayford

South Carolina will enter Saturday afternoon's showdown at Tennessee leading the Southeastern Conference in points per game this season — September games not included.

The Gamecocks are coming off last weekend's surprise 48-22 thrashing of Arkansas at Williams-Brice Stadium. What was expected to be a tight matchup lived up to that billing in the first half, but South Carolina quickly blew things open with three defensive scores in the second half.

Coach Will Muschamp now has the task of following up South Carolina's most impressive showing in his year and a half at the helm.

"I think the biggest challenge is consistency in your performance," Muschamp said Tuesday in his weekly news conference. "Week in and week out, we can continue to play well, and that's something we haven't necessarily done as an entire team, much less a defensive unit. Put together some performances that you'll be proud of.

"There's no doubt that consistency is really important to have the type of program we want to have."

Muschamp inherited a program that went 3-9 in 2015 under coach Steve Spurrier and interim coach Shawn Elliott, who is now the coach at Georgia State. The Gamecocks overachieved during a 6-6 regular season last year before losing the Birmingham Bowl to South Florida, and they are 4-2 this year with a season-opening win over North Carolina State that is getting more attractive by the minute.

Other picks

Clemson 35, Syracuse 15

Washinton State 29, California 22

TCU 30, Kansas State 29

Michigan 28, Indiana 16

Florida State 21, Duke 20

Louisville 42, Boston Coll. 23

Wisconsin 30, Purdue 21

Texas 27, Oklahoma 24

Oklahoma St. 63, Baylor 18

Virginia 24, No. Carolina 17

Memphis 31, Navy 30

MTSU 34, UAB 25

Mississippi State 20, BYU 3

Ohio State 38, Nebraska 19

Washington 37, Arizona St. 14

Stanford 32, Oregon 27

USC 17, Utah 16

Last week's rout of the Razorbacks may be the most impressive the Gamecocks have looked under Muschamp's watch, but it certainly can be argued that last year's 24-21 upset of No. 18 Tennessee in Williams-Brice was the most meaningful given the confidence it provided, not to mention the resulting bowl trip.

Muschamp went 4-0 against Tennessee as Florida's coach from 2011 to 2014, completing the sweep with a 10-9 triumph in Neyland Stadium, after which he exclaimed, "It was great to see all these people out here getting disappointed. I love it!"

When asked Tuesday about Tennessee and its fans, Muschamp was a bit more subdued.

"I've got great respect for the University of Tennessee and their program and their history," he responded. "You go back to General (Robert) Neyland, Coach (Johnny) Majors and Coach (Phillip) Fulmer and the success that they've had. It's a great environment to play in.

"We've played 'Rocky Top' a couple times, and they got a little tired of it, but it's one of the storied programs in the country as far as the history and tradition."

Pasquali's Pix:

South Carolina at Tennessee: Will this be the last chance for Butch Jones to get his first win over Muschamp? Gamecocks 20, Volunteers 17.

Auburn at LSU: Damon Duval scored a touchdown and Y2K was several weeks away the most recent time Auburn prevailed in Tiger Stadium. Auburn 27, LSU 19.

Georgia Tech at Miami: This game sets up well for the Yellow Jackets, given Miami's emotional win last week at Florida State, but Mark Richt's 14-2 record against Tech can't be tossed aside. Hurricanes 26, Yellow Jackets 24.

UTC at Mercer: The Mocs have readjusted their hopes from the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs to simply avoiding a 1-10 collapse. Bears 31, Mocs 22.

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss: Both of these teams were just a procedure penalty away from knocking off Alabama. Rebels 34, Commodores 27.

Texas A&M at Florida: The Aggies may have a quarterback in Kellen Mond. The Gators may be playing in the ugliest uniforms in SEC history. Aggies 23, Gators 22.

Arkansas at Alabama: Bret Bielema did not win an SEC game during his first season with the Razorbacks. He's on pace to do that again in year five. Crimson Tide 49, Razorbacks 6.

Missouri at Georgia: The Bulldogs are seeking their first 7-0 start since 2005, when Kirby Smart was Richt's running backs coach. Bulldogs 48, Tigers 13.

Last week:

Winners ....................... 20

Harbaughs ..................... 5

Pasquali is 123-26 overall (82.6 percent) this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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