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South Carolina Gamecocks Football: A Look Ahead to Central Florida

J. Meric

The Gamecocks enjoy a bye this weekend, which will hopefully give our coaches time to make some headway with some of the struggling aspects of our team, particularly the linebacking corps and kickoff return unit. The bye also gives us time to get injured players such as Cedrick Cooper and Cody Gibson up to speed and ready to take on bigger roles.

The bye comes at a more opportune time than many of us probably originally thought, as our next opponent, the UCF Knights, look like a team that's more than capable of taking down a quality SEC opponent at home. The Knights waxed two tuneup opponents in their opening games before getting their first win over a B10 team at Penn St. The Nittany Lions aren't an elite opponent now that scholarship reductions are beginning to take their toll, but still, heading into Happy Valley and coming out with a win is something a school in its first year removed from being a mid-major can take pride in. The game has been described in the Orlando Sentinel as the "biggest win of the O'Leary era" at UCF. The Knights, who also have a bye this week, will have momentum on their side when Carolina comes to town. This truly has the look of one of those games where the opponent has everything to win and we have everything to lose.

What particularly has me concerned about this game is UCF's offense. The Gamecocks showed a little progress defensively against Vandy, but there were still times when the line didn't get penetration, and the linebackers seem to get blocked away from the play more or less every possession. Things aren't going to get easier against UCF, which beat PSU's defense in every conceivable way. The UCF line, despite missing some players who will be back for Carolina, dominated PSU's defensive front. The Knights gave up no sacks and opened massive holes in the run game. Trust me, these guys are capable of having a field day with our linebackers. QB Blake Bortles tossed the ball around to several receivers for a 20/27, nearly 300-yard performance. Tailback Storm Johnson topped the century mark at a nearly seven-ypc clip. All this against a PSU defense that had dominated in its first two games and that was supposedly the team's strength.

In short, while they're not quite as loaded as Georgia, UCF is more than capable of running up a wild point tally if we fail to improve defensively. Considering how they struggled to slow a questionable PSU offense, I have no doubt we can score against them, too, but if we get in a shootout with them, who knows what will happen. Our guys have their work cut out for them getting ready for this one.