In some ways, the trajectory of Florida's season has resembled South Carolina's. The start was promising, as the Gators reeled off four straight wins, looking nearly invincible when they clobbered Tennessee 59-20 in Gainesville in the third week of the season.
Auburn, though, got its own season on track by derailing Florida, and the Gators have never seemed quite as dominating since. Florida comes into the South Carolina tilt having gone 2-3 in its last five games, with LSU and Georgia adding to the loss column. The defeat at LSU was close; the spelling-challenged Dawgs, though, controlled the neutral-field contest in Jacksonville.
Florida’s only wins in that time frame are a victory at Kentucky that now seems diminished and a home waxing of a Vanderbilt team that, I would remind you, South Carolina should have achieved but didn't. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
Their national title dreams, alive just a month ago, are now dead. The SEC title hopes, though still alive, virtually require a win at South Carolina.
The most obvious mismatch of the game is Tyrone Nix's defense, which has proven incapable of defending practically any offensive system that features a mobile quarterback (think Michigan on a massive scale) facing the genius-rific offense of Urban Meyer, the spread-option guru.
As you might expect with an option team, Florida does a good job of spreading things around. No player on the team averages more than 66.4 ypg rushing or 79.3 ypg receiving. Tebow leads everyone else in the running department, carrying the ball 144 times (remember, though, that sacks count as rushes in college) for 598 yards and 14 TDs. In addition to tailback Kestahn Moore, Reggie Bush-esque (in terms of his versatility) WR Percy Harvin also plays a major role in the rushing offense; both average around 50 yards a game, and both have scored four times on the ground.
Like Bush, only without the shady agents.
Tebow is completing 67.7 percent of his passes (151-of-223), with 21 TDs to go along with his four INTs. He averages 247.6 yards a game. Harvin is Florida's leading receiver, catching 45 passes for 714 yards and three scores. (Cornelius Ingram actually leads the time in receiving TDs, with five.)
Have SEC defenses made a difference? Not really. Florida rushes for 5.0 yards a carry overall; the number is almost 4.8 in conference play. Tebow's overall passer rating is 179.13; in league games, his rating is only slightly lower, at 171.25. Georgia is the only team that has managed to bring Tebow down much, sacking him six times but still allowing him to go 14-of-22 for 236 yards and score. The only team to keep his completion numbers under 50 percent was LSU; Tebow completed 12 of his 26 attempts for 2 TDs and an interception.
The Gators have outscored opponents 209-88 in the first two quarters.
For all the questions about Charlie Strong's relatively young defense, it has been above-average, allowing 25.2 points a game, 105.6 yards rushing and 241.7 yards passing. The secondary has picked off eight passes against allowing 14 TDs through the air.
That means South Carolina can't afford to get into a shootout with Florida. Nix will have to find a way to shut down the Gators offense, or it will be a long night in Columbia. Again.
(And if you don't have number overload at this point, check out Leftover Hot Dog's look at some other Florida stats.)