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South Carolina vs. Florida: Keys and a pick

The Gamecocks should take this one, but it may not be pretty.

Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The South Carolina Gamecocks return home to Williams-Brice in hopes of bouncing back after a noble effort fell short to the top-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. The Florida Gators are in town, and although they’re reeling after the firing of coach Jim McElwain, this game could nonetheless be sneaky difficult.

The keys

Come in with the right attitude. The Gators may be mired in a disastrous slog of a season right now, but they still have talent and are capable of presenting a challenge. The Gamecocks have struggled to put away opponents like Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech at home, and most notoriously, took a bad loss to Kentucky earlier this year. That Kentucky game, in particular, felt like an instance when South Carolina expected a win just for showing up. The Gamecocks shouldn’t take this one for granted, because they’ve only had two comfortable victories all season. If they want to reach eight wins or more, which would be an incredible feat for Will Muschamp in Year 2, beating Florida is critical.

Related to the previous point, get off to a good start. South Carolina is not good at doing this, I know, but it would be a sight for sore eyes to see the Gamecocks have a strong opening drive. No one wants to endure a repeat of the Vanderbilt game, in which the Commodores struck first and then lingered until the final minutes. A blowout is probably not in the cards, but if South Carolina can maintain a least a somewhat comfortable distance from the Gators throughout the first half, the odds of one happening will increase. With numerous suspensions and injuries, Florida is missing a lot of players, and they’re just missing a lot mentally right now as well. The Gamecocks can’t give them reasons to get inspired.

Find the pass rush again. After some really strong performances earlier in the season, the Gamecocks’ defensive line has tailed off after the bye week. The pass rush was nonexistent against Vanderbilt, and South Carolina didn’t succeed in rattling Georgia’s Jake Fromm much, either. Florida is starting Malik Zaire again this week, and while he’s billed as a dual-threat quarterback, he was more successful throwing the ball against Missouri. Zaire hasn’t seen much playing time this season, and will likely still be trying to get into a groove for the Gators. The Gamecocks need to take advantage of this and not let him get comfortable.

The pick

With two offensively challenged squads going at it, this game could get pretty ugly. Maybe not quite 15-9 ugly, but something like 24-13 is well within the realm of possibility. I’m going with the Gamecocks, since it’s at home and Florida really does look like it just wants this season to be over already.