No. 5 Tennessee is out of the College Football Playoff race after losing a shocker, 63-38, on the road against South Carolina. The Gamecocks scored on nine of their 10 full possessions against the Volunteers to capture the biggest win in the history of the matchup, besting a 24-0 South Carolina victory from 1903.
The Gamecocks were without leading running back Marshawn Lloyd and entered after a stunningly poor effort last week in a 38-6 loss at Florida. However, South Carolina set the tone early by jumping on the Volunteers 21-7 in the first quarter. Quarterback Spencer Rattler connected on touchdown passes of 60, 19 and 11 yards and shellshocked a shaky Tennessee passing defense unit.
Rattler has been shaky in his first season at South Carolina, throwing for eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he flashed the arm talent that made him one of the top-rated quarterback recruits of the past five years. The Oklahoma transfer threw for 438 yards and a program record six touchdowns to decimate the Vols defense. Wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. led the way with 11 catches for 177 yards, while Jaheim Bell and Josh Vann each notched two touchdowns.
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker battled, but the Vols struggled to keep pace with the Gamecocks’ scoring barrage. The Volunteers went on a 24-14 run across the middle two quarters, but South Carolina got back in the end zone behind a nine-play, 65-yard drive to go up 42-31. Hooker threw for 247 yards and three touchdowns, but went down after the Gamecocks score with an. With Hooker out, South Carolina went on a 21-0 run to end the game and pull off the massive upset.
Backup quarterback Joe Milton III came into the game and threw for 108 yards and a touchdown, but Rattler launched a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone. Milton’s touchdown toss to Cedric Tillman came with just 1:14 remaining.
The loss officially knocked Tennessee out of the College Football Playoff picture with only a game against Vanderbilt remaining. The Vols were just on the outside looking in at No. 5 in the CFP Rankings, and they might have jumped into the top four after next week’s battle between No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Michigan. However, two losses and the inability to pick up a key data point in a conference championship game makes the path nearly impossible. Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said Hooker will be further evaluated when the team returns to Knoxville.
South Carolina’s win clinches a second straight winning season for Shane Beamer as the Gamecocks move to 7-4 on the campaign. The program has only reached that feat once since Steve Spurrier retired in 2015.