Mississippi State (W)
As I mentioned in my game-by-game predictions for Auburn, Mississippi State is in a worse place than its recent 9-4 run would imply.
The Bulldogs lost their head coach when the great Mike Leach suddenly passed away in December, and having to replace him with the questionable Zach Arnett leaves the future quite uncertain.
Combining that with the Gamecocks being both relatively unfamiliar adversaries (three meetings since 2010) and having the home-field advantage, I can’t help but feel that Mississippi State will be in over its head here.
@ Tennessee (L)
This one will surely be controversial.
As we acknowledged before even starting these predictions, South Carolina football assaulted Tennessee’s defense last year en route to a dominating 63-38 victory.
However, set those two against each other 10 more times—any time, anywhere—and you will see a vastly different outcome. In other words, while it was a great win, I’m deeming it nothing more than a fluke. Tennessee winning the Orange Bowl as convincingly as it did doesn’t do much to combat that stance, either.
Another concern for USC would be this matchup taking place in Neyland Stadium, a venue known for both its size and intensity. And now for the cherry on top: South Carolina has only won there once since 2011.
That one road win was from 2017 (15-9), the same year that saw the Volunteers finish 4-8. For context, those eight losses are the most they’ve ever had in a season. So yeah, it’s going to take a whole lot more than a fluke win to outweigh all of that.
Something that does harm the argument for Tennessee’s superiority is the departure of star quarterback Hendon Hooker. The reason I refrained from mentioning it, though, falls on rising star Joe Milton III.
In his time with the Vols, Milton has shown an abundance of potential. On the passing game alone, he has given them a stellar 1,346 yards, 12 touchdowns, and no picks. You know who hasn’t proven himself anywhere near that much? Whoever will be starting for the Florida Gators in 2023. It is also worth noting that, unlike the Volunteers, the Gators won’t have a home-field advantage.
In short, I see Florida’s win streak against South Carolina football coming to an end right after Tennessee’s loss streak does (and that goes without even mentioning the much-needed bye week that USC will be coming off of).