A confidence uprising followed UT's heartbreaking, yet stunning, defeat against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium two weeks ago.

But one fact still looms over the Tennessee football program.

The Vols have not beaten a ranked opponent since Oct. 31, 2009.

That victory in 2009, however, came against the same Steve Spurrier-led South Carolina Gamecocks that will roll into Neyland Stadium on Saturday for a noon kickoff with UT.

"What we did against Georgia really doesn't count for much when there's a loss along with it," senior running back Rajion Neal said Tuesday. "We saw progress and we saw things that we definitely improved on, but we kind of left that where it is."

Coming off two games where he has averaged 153 yards per game, Neal will once again be the driving force behind the UT offense when the Vols (3-3) take on the No. 11 Gamecocks (5-1).

The Fayetteville, Ga., native finished the Georgia game with 148 yards, but only had 48 yards on 13 carries (3.7 yards per carry) in the first half where the Vols found themselves trailing 17-3 going into the halftime.

The senior was instrumental in the Vols' second half comeback, rushing for 100 yards on 15 carries, including a huge fourth-and-inches pitch that he took down the Tennessee sideline for 43 yards to sustain a crucial drive early in the fourth quarter.

"I think he is starting to really understand what is going on in the play," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said of Neal. "(He has) confidence in the guys around him. He is starting to see that his teammates trust him a little bit more, and he is starting to see that the coaching staff is trusting him more. It is just maturity."

Neal won't be the only offensive weapon relied on if UT is to upset the Gamecocks as the Vols will look to heavily rely on sophomore wide receiver Alton "Pig" Howard for the second consecutive game.

"Alton Howard is definitely one of the play makers who we need to accentuate in this offense," offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian said. "When Alton Howard is not around, that is a big loss."

As for the other side of the ball, the Vols will have the difficult task of trying to stop the Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw.

Something will have to give on Saturday as the senior signal caller comes in as one of two quarterbacks in the nation with double digit touchdown passes (10) and no interceptions.

The Vols defense, however, ranks tied for first in the SEC with 15 takeaways on the season.

"We've been watching a lot of film on him and his favorite receivers that he likes to throw to, so we are just going to try our best to pick him off," junior cornerback Justin Coleman said.

One of the most highly-regarded matchups of the week in college football will be between Tennessee offensive lineman Antonio "Tiny" Richardson and Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who may be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.

"I'd be excited," Neal said when asked how he would feel if he were in Tiny's position. "There's going to be a lot of money made between those two guys on that end of the line of scrimmage, so he should really just have fun. I'd be looking forward to the challenge and having fun."

The Vols understand the task at hand, especially after the destruction the Gamecocks left behind at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium where they dealt Arkansas a 52-7 defeat last week.

"They are coming in with a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence," UT coach Butch Jones said. "It is going to take our best effort to compete on Saturday. Our players realize that. It is going to be a great opportunity for us. I have a tremendous amount of respect for their football team. Everything is result oriented. You look at their results and they speak for themselves."