No. 5 Tennessee dropped out of the college football playoff race after losing to the Shocker, 63-38, on the road against South Carolina. The Gamecocks scored nine of their 10 total possessions against the Volunteers to score the biggest win in match history, surpassing South Carolina’s 24–0 victory in 1903.
The Gamecox were off the lead in running back to Marshawn Lloyd and exited after a staggeringly bad run last week, losing 38-6 in Florida. However, South Carolina set the tone early, beating the Volunteers 21–7 in the first quarter. Quarterback Spencer Rattler hit 60, 19, and 11 yard touchdown passes and concussed a wobbly passing Tennessee defense.
Rattler was shaky in his first season in South Carolina, throwing eight touchdowns and nine interceptions, but he displayed a hand talent that made him one of the best quarterback recruits in the past five years. The Oklahoma transfer threw for 438 yards and recorded six touchdowns to destroy Vols’ defense. Wide receiver Antwine Wells Jr. led with 11 catches for 177 yards, while Jaheim Bell and Josh Vann each threw two touchdowns.
Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker struggled, but the Vols struggled to keep up with the Gamecocks’ scoring flurry. The Volunteers went on a 24-14 streak in two middle quarters, but South Carolina returned to the end zone after nine games for 65 yards and went 42-31 up. Hooker threw for 247 yards and landed three times, but went down after the Gamecocks scored with. With Hooker gone, South Carolina went 21–0 to close the game and deal with a huge disappointment.
Alternate quarterback Joe Milton III came in and threw for 108 yards and a touchdown, but Rattler only threw a couple of touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Milton’s touchdown throw to Cedric Tillman came with 1:14 left.
The defeat officially eliminated Tennessee from the college football playoffs, leaving only the game against Vanderbilt. The Vols were just outside looking at No. 5 in the CFP rankings and they could jump into the top four after next week’s battle between No. 2 in Ohio State and No. 3 in Michigan. However, two losses and a failure to pick up a key data point in a conference championship game make the path nearly impossible. Tennessee coach Josh Hupel said Hooker will be further appreciated when the team returns to Knoxville.
South Carolina’s win ends Shane Beamer’s second straight winning season as the Gamecocks advance to 7-4 in the campaign. The program has achieved this feat only once since Steve Spurrier retired in 2015.