Our South Carolina Gamecocks are back in action this weekend, taking on one of their final SEC East foes of the season in the Florida Gators (and doing it in prime time, for some unfathomable reason). USC got a chance to rest, recuperate, and hopefully revamp (read: throw out) parts of its playbook during last week’s time off, and while a bye won’t cure all that ills, it’ll be interesting to see if this team takes a different approach to the second chapter of this season.
What have they been up to lately? It may surprise you to learn that Florida also has a 4-4 record, although the way the Gators got there is much different. UF chowed down on a couple of cupcakes to begin the season (Florida Atlantic and South Florida) before suffering a narrow but encouraging 31-29 loss to Alabama, which the Gators used as fuel to rudely dispatch Tennessee 38-14. The second-in-the-East Kentucky Wildcats brought Florida back down to Earth, however, handing UF a 20-13 loss, and the Gators rebounded once again with a 42-0 pasting of Vanderbilt. Florida comes to Columbia as the reluctant owners of a two-game skid, though, falling 49-42 in a wild one to LSU and suffering a crushing 34-7 defeat to rival Georgia that also saw quarterback Anthony Richardson get concussed. Coach Dan Mullen also grabbed national attention with weirdly disparaging remarks about recruiting, so the folks in Gainesville are having a great time!
What happens when the Gamecocks have the ball? I love that we’re entering Game No. 9 and I still don’t really know how to answer this question, but here we are. Florida isn’t the only team with uncertainty at quarterback, as Zeb Noland underwent a minor surgical procedure on his knee during the off week and backup Jason Brown has allegedly been taking a lot of the first-team reps. Coach Shane Beamer has insisted that Noland will be ready and available, but I can’t imagine they’d want to rush him back so quickly — and, more to the point, there’s no time like the present to shake it up and try something a little different, as we advocated here. One thing’s for certain: South Carolina can’t just keep doing what it did in the first eight games and expect new and fruitful results.
What happens when the Gators have the ball? Former starter and veteran Emory Jones, who was usurped by the talented young Richardson, will likely get the start for Florida this week as the latter continues to recover from a concussion. Here’s a possibly encouraging fact: The Gators have been very loose with the football, currently sporting a -7 turnover margin, and the Gamecock defense has been opportunistic with takeaways. On the other hand, Florida is averaging an eye-popping 243 rushing yards per game while South Carolina has shown a recent weakness in that area (checking in at 87th nationally, giving up around 168 ypg).
What are we wearing? Not sure, but I’ve been glad to see the wardrobe opening up a little as the season has worn on (though I’m also glad to see that the the awful, non-traditional choices of the Muschamp era have remained in the closet). This seems like as good a candidate as any for a Big Game Garnet appearance.
How are we feeling about this? I am absolutely not calling for or expecting a victory here (I’ll leave that up to our resident eternal optimist), but I do think there’s an opportunity for South Carolina to kind of acquit itself against superior competition, much like it did earlier this season against Georgia. No one expected the Gamecocks to win that game — and they certainly didn’t! — but they hung around for most of it and looked like they had some semblance of a strategy. (Hell, I’d say most fans felt better after the Georgia loss than they did about the ECU win.) Florida is a team that is far more talented and working with far more depth, but it’s also a team in disarray, which could allow the Gamecocks to make things interesting. Personally, I’m really hoping to see a refreshed and renewed take on the South Carolina offense, if nothing else.