This post concludes the buildup towards Florida.
Three Keys to Victory
Special Teams Play. With a very average offense, Florida tends to rely on its stellar special teams play to create scoring opportunities. The Gators are very good at blocking kicks and have very dangerous return men. Carolina has played poorly on special teams in recent weeks, turning the ball over and giving up big returns. That can't happen against Florida. I feel that our defense can keep the Gators between 10-17 points, but only if we don't gift them any points.
Protect Connor Shaw. With Carolina's pass blocking seriously struggling right now, Shaw has been hammered multiple times over the last few games. Turnovers are going to be a major issue tomorrow, and I feel we win if we're even or above in TO differential. I also think Shaw has proven he can protect the ball. However, no QB is going to be able to avoid committing turnovers when getting rocked every other play.
Embrace the Spread. This team needs an offensive identity, and the spread is it. I'm all for mixing in pro-style formations from time to time, particularly for running plays, but this team moves the ball best when running and passing out of the shotgun with three or more split wide. That should be our base offense. It plays to our strengths and doesn't put Shaw in too much danger. I don't think Carolina should even consider doing much passing out of the I; this line can't protect a QB on a seven-step drop. If we embrace the spread, I feel that we will score between 20-27 points and commit few turnovers. That should equal a win.
Continue reading after the jump.
What It Means
Needless to say, this is a huge game. A win won't give Carolina the East, but it's necessary to stay in the race. Moreover, even with the Gators currently down, being competitive in this series in still foreign to the Gamecocks, so a win tomorrow will excite a currently disgruntled fan base.
Anyone who expects the Gamecocks to trounce the Gators like they did last year is probably in for a rude awakening. The Gators I don't think are that much different. However, last year, we got a Heisman-esque performance from Marcus Lattimore, great line play, and nice work from (the good version of) Stephen Garcia. This year, there's no Lattimore, no Garcia, and the line stinks. Although this team has been more consistent than last year's, I just don't think this year's team has the ceiling it did last year. (The high variance owed to Garcia's up-and-down play, IMO, but that's another story.) All of that said, I do think we're a slightly better team than Florida, and the game is at home. Expect a defensive struggle, but expect the Gamecocks to come out with a close win. 21-17 Carolina.