A massive game in the SEC Eastern Division could very well decide who will be in Atlanta in early December for the SEC Championship. Ninth ranked South Carolina will travel to the Swamp to face the second ranked Florida Gators in what should be an intense battle.
The Gamecocks are coming off a heartbreaking loss to LSU last week, ending their undefeated run and forcing them into a must win situation this week, to keep their National Championships hopes alive. The Gators remain perfect, with a 6-0 record and are hoping to run the table all the way to Atlanta. The Gators defeated LSU two weeks ago in their biggest win of the season.
South Carolina may go into this game short-handed as star running back Marcus Lattimore is listed as doubtful due to a hip injury. This would be a devastating loss for South Carolina. The junior running back is one of the best in the country in the backfield, and is the key component in the Gamecocks offence. Lattimore has rushed for 584 yards and 10 touchdowns in 6 games this season. His biggest strength is not being tackled after first contact. If Lattimore can’t go Kenny Shaw will get the start at running back, for South Carolina.
Lattimore’s injury will put more pressure on Connor Shaw. The junior quarterback struggled last week against LSU throwing the football. Shaw completed 19 out of 34 passes for 177 yards, 2 touchdowns but 2 interceptions. Shaw was also sacked 4 times by the fierce LSU pass rush. Shaw won’t have it any easier, playing a stern Florida defence, that is ranked 6th in the country. If Shaw cannot get the passing game going, it will be a very long day for the South Carolina offence.
One thing to look for is the dangerous Ace Sanders in the return game. The junior receiver is a big play threat in punt returns, with one returned for a touchdown this season, while averaging 16.4 yards per return. Sanders may need to unleash a big return to give South Carolina a chance in this one.
South Carolina’s defence is ranked fifth in the country, but they are undersized up front, and wore down in their loss to LSU. However, there is no denying the ability of Jadeveon Clowney. The sophomore rush end is a force on the edge, recording 6.5 sacks and terrorizing opposing quarterbacks with his speed. Florida may need to keep an extra back in the backfield, or go to a double tight end formation to contain Clowney.
Clowney will be chasing Jeff Driskel for most of the afternoon. The sophomore quarterback is known for his scrambling and escapability and he will be tested against Clowney. Driskel is second on the team in rushing, gaining 326 yards on the ground, while throwing for 836 yards, 4 touchdowns to only 1 interception. Driskel will need to balance his scrambling ability with accurate throws to keep South Carolina’s defence off-balance.
Florida will also utilize the running game led by Mike Gillislee. The senior running back has rushed for 615 yards and 7 touchdowns so far this season. Gillislee was the key player in Florida’s big win over LSU two weeks ago rushing for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bayou Bengals. If Gillislee can run the ball effectively, Florida’s offence will be dominant.
Florida has struggled in the passing game, ranking 118th in the country in throwing the football. Junior Jordan Reed is the leading receiver for Florida, with 21 receptions for 237 yards and 1 touchdown. Senior Frankie Hammond has only 11 catches for 204 yards and 2 touchdowns. The receivers will need to step up their game for Florida to have any hope of a National title.
The Gators defence has been superb all season and while there are no big stars, they believe in the philosophy of there is no I in team. Three players to keep an eye on are, defensive end Dominique Easley, linebacker Jon Bostic and safety Matt Elam are the leaders of the Gators defence and will be very stern against South Carolina.
And how can we forget about Steve Spurrier? The former Gators coach and quarterback returns to the Swamp as head coach of South Carolina. Despite being a Gator legend, Spurrier will be the enemy inside the Swamp. The question is can South Carolina handle the distraction of their charismatic head coach returning to his former glorious home? If not, I see a long day for the Gamecocks.
Prediction: If Lattimore doesn’t play, it is a major blow for South Carolina. Even if he does play, how effective he will be? Florida’s offence may not put up a ton of points, but their defence will lead the way to victory. I see Florida winning 20-10 to stay undefeated and gain an advantage in the SEC East.
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