Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd looks for running room against Kentucky's defense. (Photo By Matthew DeMaria/Tennessee Athletics)


4 p.m. * Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn. * SEC Network/106.5 FM

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South Carolina's Pharoh Cooper, right, runs in for a touchdown while pursued by Tennessee's Derek Barnett during their game in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014.


South Carolina may not be very good this season, but the Gamecocks still have some very talented players, a group led by receiver Pharoh Cooper. Tennessee remembers him well after he set a program record with 233 receiving yards and accounted for four touchdowns (two receiving, one passing, one rushing) against the Vols in Columbia last season.

"We talked about it," Vols defensive coordinator John Jancek said. "He's a good football player. That's the best way to describe it."

Despite South Carolina's carousel of quarterbacks, Cooper is fifth in the SEC in receptions (44) and fourth in receiving yards (609) and has five touchdowns this season.

"He's a headache," Vols safety Brian Randolph said. "We've got to do our best in containing him."

Running back Brandon Wilds is another weapon for the Gamecocks. He's coming off back-to-back 100-yard games against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M, and Tennessee's allowed a 100-yard rusher in six straight games.

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Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) takes off on a fourth-down play, with seconds left on the clock, to score a 36-yard touchdown during his game against South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Nov. 1, 2014.


For Tennessee quarterback Josh Dobbs, it all started against South Carolina last season.

In his first start of the season, Dobbs threw for 301 yards, ran for 166 more, accounted for five touchdowns and orchestrated two touchdown drives of 75 and 85 yards late in regulation to tie the game and force overtime.

"I think it put more confidence in him than anything," linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, "just knowing he could put the team on his back in a situation where he had to. That was a big step for him as far as his own confidence."

Dobbs downplayed the significance of that comeback, but it's fair to wonder where he and Tennessee would be without that win, because the Vols wouldn't have made a bowl game without it.

Coming off a 284-yard, four-touchdown performance at Kentucky, Dobbs could be in line for another big game against the Gamecocks, who are 13th in the SEC in total defense and allow a league-worst 215.2 rushing yards per game.

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Tennessee linebacker Raiques Crump (40), defensive back Michael F. Williams, center, and linebacker John Propst (47) celebrate with fans after their 23-21 victory over South Carolina in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 in Knoxville.


Since Steve Spurrier's abrupt midseason resignation, South Carolina appears to be a rejuvenated football team. Under interim coach Shawn Elliott, the Gamecocks beat Vanderbilt and played Texas A&M into the final minutes.

Facing a team playing and coaching with nothing to lose is a tricky scenario, but Tennessee should be able to handle it and ensure this one doesn't come down to the final play like the last two games in the series.

South Carolina gained a season-high 445 yards in College Station, but Tennessee's defense is playing as well as it has all season. The Vols again should find South Carolina's defense to be very friendly, and it'd be a surprise if Tennessee is unable to move the ball at will on the Gamecocks.

The Vols must continue to play and coach aggressively and, as they did at Kentucky, close out the game when they have the chance.


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