After two weeks of discussions about a near win, the Tennessee football team returns to the field for another major challenge as 9th ranked South Carolina comes to town. What's key for the Vols to pull off an upset? Here are four in what we like to call The Cheat Sheet.
Get it to the half - That's been the key to South Carolina this season. The Gamecocks have outscored their opponents in the first half 120-65. In the last two games, they have outscored the Razorbacks and the Wildcats 48-14. In the Vols three losses this season they have been outscored 72-17 in the first half including 34-10 in two conference games. Tennessee must be ready out of the gates and get the game to the half in a situation to make it a true 60 minute fight.
Defend Conner Shaw - Shaw doesn't do anything flashy. He's seemingly always bruised and battered. But he wins. He finds ways to make plays. It's why he's such a key for the Vol defense. A defense that gave up 84 yards rushing to Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray went for 57 yards on a quarterback draw. South Alabama's Ross Metheny rushed for 67 yards including a 32 yard touchdown run. Shaw has 319 yards rushing this season. Last year, Shaw rushed for 33 yards and a touchdown. It's imperative that Tennessee doesn't let Shaw beat them with his legs.
Win third down - The key to Tennessee scoring 28 points in the second half against Georgia to take the lead with 2 minutes to go was their success offensively and defensively on possession downs. Offensively the Vols were 7 of 12 on 3rd and 4th down conversions. In the second half, Georgia was 3 of 8 on 3rd down conversions. All three came on their game tying drive. Outside of that drive, the Bulldogs were just 1 of 10 on 3rd downs.
Finish - This program has been on the cusp of upsets. From Alabama in 2009 to LSU in 2010, to both Georgia and South Carolina a year ago, the Vols have had chances, but they haven't been able to make those one or two plays at the end of the game to pull off an upset. For the Vols Saturday to knock off a top-10 team for the first time since Georgia in 2006, the Vols must finish the game making that or those critical game winning plays at at the end.