The Matchup: #7 South Carolina (6-1, 4-1) at #2 Florida (6-0, 5-0)
When: Saturday, October 20th
Where: Gainesville, Florida
Game Time: 3:30 PM ET
Recent History: Florida has dropped a series-high two straight games to South Carolina, and the last time in The Swamp, the Gamecocks won their first-ever game in Gainesville. Florida leads the all time series 23-6-3, dating back to 1911. Since 1992, Florida owns a 17-3 record.
South Carolina Will Win If: The Gamecocks stop Florida’s running attack. Florida averages over 233 yards of rushing per game, good for second in the conference behind Texas A&M, who averages 235 per contest. South Carolina’s defense was physically worn down against LSU in the second half. The Tigers rushed for 258 yards, and it was barely enough to escape with a two-point win. So, if Jadeveon Clowney and company can at least keep Florida’s rushing attack in check, there’s a great chance to get the victory. But Florida’s rushing attack isn’t just limited to Mike Gillislee, who happens to lead the SEC in rushing, but it includes a cast of characters including QB Jeff Driskel (326 yards, four TDs) and Wildcat QB Trey Burton (109 yards, two TDs). Stopping Florida’s running attack will be key for the Gamecocks to escape with a win.
Florida Will Win If: The Gators stop Marcus Lattimore. LSU put out the blueprint to stopping Connor Shaw and South Carolina on Saturday – it’s stopping Lattimore predominately. LSU’s defense minimized Shaw’s effectiveness to run and keyed in on Lattimore in the running game. Shaw and Lattimore combined for 34 yards rushing and one touchdown. Shaw and Lattimore have been deadly in the zone-read play this season, and play action can be deadly, especially when Lattimore and Shaw are having their way. Florida has to key in on Lattimore and stop him. Last time in The Swamp, he ate up the Gators for 212 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
Sexy Stat: Up until Saturday, South Carolina had only given up 27 points in the second half of games. Florida has given up a total of 23 in one less game. Both teams have enough depth and physical presence to wear the other one down in the 4th quarter. It will be something to keep an eye on. Florida has owned second halves and fourth quarters this season.
Storyline(s): The winner becomes the premier contender in the SEC East. The one that survives this game will be the main focus of the SEC East…for a week. South Carolina has already beaten Georgia, and with Tennessee and Arkansas remaining on the schedule, you have to figure the Gamecocks would finish the East. Florida has to play Georgia next week, who still have just one loss. We could finish with three teams in the East with only one loss. Let’s let it play out. But no doubt, the winner of this game has the upper hand in the East.
Player(s) To Watch: For South Carolina, all eyes will be on RB Marcus Lattimore. If he gets going against Florida, look out. The zone-read killed Florida against SC last season in Columbia. We’re going to find out how Florida handles it Saturday.
For Florida, the player to watch has to be QB Jeff Driskel. He’s a great looking runner with legitimate speed and a threat the defense has to contend, but Florida is last in the SEC in passing offense, averaging a mere 145 yards per game through the air. The Gators haven’t had to use the air attack as much, just when necessary, and it will be crucial to convert third downs against the Gamecocks’ defense.