Only in the SEC can playing the nation’s No. 14 team be considered a break in the schedule.

Tennessee hopes to get its first SEC win this year as it hosts South Carolina Saturday night in Neyland Stadium.

“We’re going against the SEC East champs and they stroked us there last year,” UT coach Derek Dooley said. “They have had a couple of personnel issues as well, but it hasn’t really affected them too much because they have found a way to win.”

South Carolina (6-1, 4-1 SEC) won 38-24 last year at Williams-Brice Stadium on its way to the school’s first SEC East title.

The Vols (3-4, 0-4) have lost three straight and four of their last five, similarly to last year when they started 2-6 before winning four straight to get to a bowl game.

“It’s definitely frustrating. This is not where we wanted to be at 3-4,” senior linebacker Austin Johnson said. “We’ve still got a long season. We can turn it around, make a good bowl game and have some more wins in the SEC. I just think we have to keep our minds on this game, not really think about these other losses.”

Tennessee is playing a top-20 opponent for the third consecutive week for the first time since 1994. They lost to No. 1 LSU 38-7 two weeks ago and lost 37-6 to No. 2 Alabama last week.

The Vols will start a true freshman quarterback in consecutive seasons as Justin Worley replaces senior Matt Simms. Worley, the Rock Hill, S.C., native played in the fourth quarter in the 37-6 loss to Alabama, but didn’t even attempt a pass as a fumble, and bad field position limited options. He enrolled in classes in January and participated in spring workouts.

Worley was the No. 2 quarterback once Tyler Bray was sidelined with a broken thumb against Georgia Oct. 8. Dooley announced Worley as the starter Monday.

“He did what he’s done the last couple of weeks,” Dooley said. “He’s been a different guy ever since Tyler went down, just mentally. You can tell he’s into it. There was no difference there, which is good. He’s throwing the ball well. He’s managing the plays well and running the offense. He just has to prepare well this week, go out and do the best he can.”

Tauren Poole will have an even bigger role to play now that Tennessee is starting a freshman quarterback against the SEC’s top-rated pass defense.

Poole has upped his game in the past two weeks, rushing for the most an individual has against LSU (70 yards) and Alabama (67) this season. He’s averaging four yards a carry, totaling 462 yards this season. However, Tennessee still claims the nation’s sixth-worst run game, which is going against a defense that allows 144 ground yards a game and just six rushing touchdowns.

The series with South Carolina has been a washout since 2005, with each team winning three games. Before that, Tennessee won 12 straight and 19 of 23. The home team has won the past four matches.

Tennessee’s last victory against a ranked opponent was against then-No. 21 South Carolina in 2009. The Vols won 31-13 at Neyland on Oct. 31 wearing black jerseys for Halloween.