As always, Gamecock Man gets the Game Thread up first. That is where you should go to discuss the game. Here is where you go to laugh at what dumb-looking prediction I made.
1. Tim Tebow. Yeah, yeah, he's not scoring eight touchdowns a game like he was last year, but Tebow has still been surprisingly effective, especially in that stat we actually keep track of: Wins.
|2008 - Tim Tebow
This is really incredibly, awe-strikingly efficient. That's an 8.5:1 TD-to-INT ratio, for those of you keeping score at home. Oh, and he's rushed for 10 TDs, so you can almost call that a 13.5:1 TD-to INT ratio. And while a 65 percent completion rate for 193.3 ypg is not Colt McCoy-esque, it's what something like 90 percent of the quarterbacks in the country would call a good day. There are three priorities for any defense facing Florida:
(1) Stop Tim Tebow
(2) Stop Tim Tebow
(3) Stop Tim Tebow
Do that, and South Carolina has a chance.
2. The other guys. A chance will only take you so far, though. Even if Ellis Johnson and Co. manage to slow down Tebow, they have to figure out a way to deal with Percy Harvin, Jeffrey Demps and Chris Rainey. When Urban Meyer talked about building the fastest team in America, he wasn't just trying to keep the fans happy. I remarked a couple of weeks ago during the LSU-Florida game that it was the first time I'd ever seen anyone make the Bayou Bengals look slow. But that's exactly what the Gators did, particularly on offense. Trying to stop Florida is like playing whack-a-mole. There's some skill involved, but you have to be lucky enough to have your mallet in the right place at the right time.
3. Turnover margin. To upset a better team -- and let's not kid ourselves; Florida is the better team -- you have to be able to force turnovers. Good luck doing that against the Gators, who are first in the SEC and fourth in the country with an average turnover margin of +1.44 a game. That said, Year 2 would want me to remind you that Florida did have one bout of turnover-itis this year. Against Ole Miss, when the Gators fumbled five times and lost three of them. Which just goes to what I'm saying: If Florida takes care of the football, the uphill climb gets even steeper.
4. The Swamp. South Carolina has never won in the Swamp. Neverevereverever. Or in the state of Florida. The Gamecocks are 0-12-2 at Florida. So the homefield advantage thing is real when it comes to South Carolina at Florida. They've always won there. Always. Not to mention the fact that CBS is covering the game, and the Gamecocks have never won on CBS, either. I'm blaming this on Gary Danielson.
5. Defense. Contrary to my expectations, Florida's actually pretty good on the defensive side as well. They allow just 286.2 ypg and 11.9 ppg. South Carolina isn't going to win any game this year with offense alone, but the Gamecocks certainly aren't going to win this game that way. Keeping Florida under, say, 30 isn't enough to win if you can't get to 20.
1. Defense. If there's any team in the SEC that might be able to contain the Gators' attack, it's South Carolina. And, as Gamecock Man pointed out on Orange and Blue Hue, the 4-2-5 defense is designed to slow down spread offenses like Florida's. That said, with Rich Rodriguez muddling through things at Michigan instead of dominating at West Virginia, this is probably the best spread offense in the country right now. Then again, I seem to remember Tyrone Nix using five DBs quite a bit in 2007, and we all know how that ended. (Let's not even get into the depth issues at safety, OK?)
2. Stepher Garcimelley. I really have very deep reservations about the two-quarterback "system" (assuming there was anything systematic about it) that the Gamecocks ran against Arkansas. But Spurrier must have seen something in the way it worked that encouraged him to try it again. So we'll give one of the best QB coaches in the country the benefit of the doubt and say it's a plus.
3. Kenny McKinley. The Gamecocks' star WR finally seemed to get things going last week against the Hogs, when he had a breakout performance despite a rough day for Garcimelley.
If he can keep up the pace, it could provide enough explosiveness for the offense to at least stay close to Florida for a few quarters.
4. Steve Spurrier. You know he wants this game. He tries to deflect the attention, and I honestly think he wants all the stories to be about South Carolina's players and Florida's players, rather than SPURRIER: BACK IN THE SWAMP WITH A DIFFERENT TEAM. But don't doubt that he would like nothing better than to take Florida out of the national title hunt and prove that Meyer can't outcoach the OBC too often.
5. Hubris. I don't know if Florida's players are buying into the spread -- the point spread, not the offense. It was 23 the last time I checked, which is absurd given the quality of the Gamecocks defense. The Florida players probably know they won't win by three TDs, but just knowing that so many people are willing to bet on that happening could make them feel pretty good about their chances ...
PREDICTION: I wouldn't count on anything, even overconfidence, to stop the Gators enough from winning. The stakes -- a shot at the national championship -- are too high, and Florida is too good. They win -- a lot more narrowly than people think, but they win nonetheless. Florida 28, South Carolina 20
And don't forget to check out SB Nation's "Race to the BCS" hub.