The Tennessee Volunteers (3-4, 0-4 SEC) head to Columbia, S.C. this weekend to take on the No. 13 South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Vols head into their fourth consecutive game against a ranked opponent coming off a 44-13 loss from the hands of top-ranked Alabama. Head coach Derek Dooley said South Carolina's recent bout with SEC teams has put the two teams in a similar position.
"South Carolina is a good football team and they played three good ones in a row. They strapped Georgia pretty good and had LSU beat but didn't pull it out, and then they made a bunch of mistakes against Florida," Dooley said. "That is what happens when you play these good teams."
The Vols' offense won't receive any breaks this week, going up against a defense that ranks in the top 15 in the nation at points allowed and third in sacks. Dooley said that the Gamecocks' front four are probably the most disruptive front four the Vols will play all year.
"Defensively it starts with their front four, extremely talented and disruptive," said Dooley. "They play with incredible energy and fly around to the ball."
The leader of that fearsome front four is sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney, a highly touted recruit out of high school, is currently tied for tenth in the nation with 7.5 sacks, only two off the leader.
"Clowney is a defensive end and he is probably the best defensive end in the country in the last decade or so," said sophomore left tackle Antonio Richardson. "He is athletic and brings a physical presence with him. We have to get in there and watch the film, watch the film, and get better."
Starting quarterback Tyler Bray comes into this week with mounting pressure from both the fans and coaches. Bray has thrown at least one interception in each of the last five games, and Dooley said his leash is shortening.
"If he is loose with the ball, he is coming out of the game and we are going to play (Justin) Worley," said Dooley. "That's the way it is. We can't win, we can't beat these teams turning the ball over. There are going to be inevitable turnovers in the game, so when there is one, make them make a great play to get it, not serve it up to them, which is what we do."
Junior right tackle Ja'Wuan James said that regardless of who is behind, whether it be Bray or Worley, it doesn't matter.
"When Justin's in, we don't miss a beat. He's just as good of a quarterback as Tyler (Bray)," said James. "We have a bunch of good guys. It's great that we have depth now and an opportunity to do stuff with it."
South Carolina is the final ranked team on Tennessee's schedule and Dooley wants the team to make the most of it.
"We have one more good shot against a top ten kind of opponent. We have to keep believing in our abilities and believing in what we are doing, because I believe in our guys and believe in what we are doing," said Dooley. "Then when it is time to play we have to go compete and play like we are capable of."