Gamecocks face S.C. native Worley as Volunteers’ QB

South Carolina still controls its own fate in the SEC East title race, but the No. 14 Gamecocks have to begin life without star running back Marcus Lattimore when they travel to Tennessee.

Lattimore was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the Gamecocks’ 14-12 victory at Mississippi State two weeks ago, leaving South Carolina (6-1 overall, 4-1 SEC) shorthanded at running back. Tennessee (3-4 overall, 0-4 SEC) also will be without one of its top offensive players in sophomore quarterback Tyler Bray (broken thumb), and will give freshman Justin Worley, a South Carolina native, his first start.

The Volunteers won 12 straight in the series from 1993-2004, but the teams have split the past six meetings, with South Carolina winning 38-24 last season at home. Tennessee has won 14 of 15 meetings in Knoxville, Tenn., with the Gamecocks’ lone road win a 16-15 victory in 2005. The home team has won the past four meetings.

Lattimore’s absence puts even more pressure on sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw took over as the starter in midseason, replacing Stephen Garcia, who was later dismissed from the team. Shaw is trying to become only the third South Carolina quarterback in the past 30 years to open his career with wins in his first four starts, joining Steve Taneyhill (1992) and Chris Smelley (2007). With 818 yards on 163 carries, Lattimore ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the nation in rushing. The Gamecocks have won five straight road games dating to last season, a school record.

Worley will get a chance to prove the Gamecocks made a mistake by not recruiting him out of Rock Hill’s Northwestern High School, where he was the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year. The Volunteers burned Worley’s redshirt when he replaced senior Matt Simms late in last week’s 37-6 loss to Alabama, but he didn’t attempt a pass. The Volunteers are facing a third consecutive top 15 opponent for the first time since 1991.

CHICKEN SCRATCH: With a win, South Carolina’s senior class would establish a school record with 30 victories, breaking the mark of 29 set by last year’s seniors. … The series has the second-narrowest margin of victory among SEC matchups since 2000 at an average of 9.0 points. … South Carolina is 5-2 following an off week under coach Steve Spurrier, including a 35-21 win over top-ranked Alabama last season.

TV: ESPN2, 7:15 P.M. LINE: South Carolina -3.5.

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