The winding and unlikely road to Atlanta starts and ends in Gainesville for the Gamecocks. There’s very little chance South Carolina will wind up with an Eastern Division championship, but well, there’s still a chance. Step 1: Beat Florida in the Swamp.
Here’s how they get it done.
Three Keys to the Game:
- Sustain the pass protection. It was a struggle for the Gamecocks offensive line the first half of the Missouri game. All too often running back Rico Dowdle was left without a hole to shimmy through and quarterback Jake Bentley was welcomed with Tiger defensemen rushing at him past broken down protections. Thankfully enough, Bentley was able to elude most of the pressure he was dealt with and the receivers were able to create just enough space and reel in some tough catches. Don’t expect the same kind of fortune this week. Florida head coach Jim McIlwain carries with him one of the nation’s toughest and stingiest defenses. While the Gator defensive line isn’t something to focus all of your attention on, diminishing their pass rush will go along way for Bentley to have success throwing down field. Florida’s secondary has allowed the second fewest passing yards this year, so for Bentley to have success making his progressions and finding the best receiver, he’ll need all the time he can get from Mason Zandi and the gang.
- Stuff the run. The Gamecocks rank in the bottom half of the nation in rushing yards per game allowing an average of 197.2 yards per game on the ground on a nearly 5 yard per carry average. The Gators are 2-1 in their last three games. In the two games they won, they tallied up close to 400 yards combined on the ground. In their loss last week against Arkansas, they mustered a mere 12 total rushing yards when it was all said and done. While Florida doesn’t have a go to back, and use a committee approach, the running game starts with sophomore Jordan Scarlett. If South Carolina’s defensive line is able to stop Scarlett and the rest of the Gator backs consistently it’ll make life more difficult for reserve quarterback Austin Appleby. Force the Florida offensive coaches to call a pass heavy game, and the chances for a road upset increase. Let the Gators back gain and sustain momentum on the ground, and it could be a different story.
- Silence Tabor. Former Will Muschamp recruit Jalen Tabor is a future NFL first round draft pick and a main reason why the Gator secondary gives up less than 150 passing yards a game. The junior defensive back leads the Gators with four picks this season, despite opposing coaches and QB’s trying to avoid him all year. In all likelihood, he’ll be following Deebo Samuel around all afternoon, so Bentley will need to look to other playmakers such as K.C. Crosby, Hayden Hurst and Bryan Edwards. While I don’t expect Bentley to avoid throwing Deebo and Tabor’s way all game, he’ll need to pick his spots wisely and avoid that costly interception he’s avoided since taking over.
Remember 2010 when Spurrier and Lattimore helped clinch the Gamecocks first SEC division title? How could you forget? How about when a blocked punt and Dylan Thompson overtime touchdown run (!!!!!) upset the Gators in 2014? Pretty sweet, right.
South Carolina has found a little magic underneath the swampy growth of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium this decade. Why not keep it up and continue the possibility of winning a division we were left for dead in just a couple weeks ago.
South Carolina 24 - Florida 17