It's time. The Gamecocks will take on the Gators tomorrow night in The Swamp with the SEC East Title on the line. This is Carolina's chance to make history and finally earn a spot in the SEC Championship Game. Here's a quick preview; I would have more, but time constraints are eating away at me right now.
Three Keys to Victory
3. Play Smart Assignment Football
Florida has gotten back to running the spread option effectively now that it's discovered the talents of Trey Burton and Jordan Reed. Having Chris Rainey back has also put a bit more "oomph" in the Gators ground game. This revamped Gators attack will challenge Carolina's front line in a way that we haven't really seen this year. Take hope, though, dear reader; Carolina has mostly been good against mobile QBs so far this season, and I think they're capable of doing well against Florida, too. A good performance will be key to making sure that we can put the Gators in a position in which they have to throw the ball down field, which is exactly where they don't want to be.
2. Turnover Margin
Florida's secondary has been one of the best in the nation so far this season, particularly in terms of producing game-changing interceptions. In a game where I expect the Gators to challenge Carolina to throw the ball by focusing on bottling up Marcus Lattimore from the get-go, Stephen Garcia will have to be very careful with the ball and make sure he avoids committing any mistakes that come back to haunt us. It also wouldn't hurt to force a couple of key turnovers ourselves.
1. Pass Defense
In what you might call an epic cream-puff war, the Carolina pass defense will square off against the Florida pass offense in a battle to determine supremacy in suckitude. What will the key be to turning in an improved performance against the pass? Perhaps Carolina's rush. The Gators have had a lot of trouble protecting John Brantley this year, and Brantley hasn't exactly been doing a good job of dealing with pressure. A healthy dose of Cliff Matthews and Devin Taylor is perhaps exactly what he needs.
What It Means
Garcia called this game the most important in Carolina history. Spurrier disagreed. The disagreement probably points up the fact that it's a little difficult to know how to describe the importance of a game without a bit of hindsight. One thing's for certain here: if we win, it'll likely be the biggest victory in program history. It's really just that simple. Carolina has never gotten this close to getting into the country's premier conference title game.
As much as it pains me to say it, I don't have a good feeling about this game. It seems that the exact situation that many of us have feared all year is about to come to pass--the Gators, after struggling all year, are finally getting it together, while Carolina, after starting strong, is falling apart. I hope that we buck the trend this weekend, but I'll believe it when I see it. I'm expecting a close Gators victory.
It should be observed here that I called for a loss in the 'Bama game.