FACTS & STATS: Site: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548) — Gainesville,
Florida. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: South Carolina 3-3, Florida
2-2. Away Record: South Carolina 1-2, Florida 3-1. Neutral Record: South
Carolina 0-0, Florida 0-0. Conference Record: South Carolina 2-5, Florida
4-3. Series Record: Florida 24-7-3.
GAME NOTES: SEC Eastern Division foes will clash at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
on Saturday afternoon, as the Florida Gators play host to the South Carolina
South Carolina came into the season with high hopes as the No. 9 team in the
preseason poll but has since been one of the most disappointing teams in the
country with a 4-5 record and a 2-5 mark in the SEC. The Gamecocks have lost
four of their last five contests, including a 45-42 overtime setback at home
to Tennessee on Nov. 1 in which they surrendered a two-touchdown lead in the
final two minutes.
Florida has been on the upswing of late, rebounding from a two-game skid in
October with back-to-back wins over Georgia (38-20) and Vanderbilt (34-10).
The Gators are a win away from bowl eligibility at 5-3 and are 4-3 in SEC play
heading into their final conference game of the season.
The Gators have a comfortable 24-7-3 lead in the all-time series with the
Gamecocks, but South Carolina won last season’s matchup in Columbia, 19-14.
South Carolina’s offense has lived up to its end of the bargain this season by
acting as one of the SEC’s most potent units with 35.9 ppg and 479.6 ypg. They
were outstanding once again the last time out with 625 yards and six
Dylan Thompson is in the midst of a strong season under center, as he’s
completing just shy of 61 percent of his passes for 2,588 yards, 24 touchdowns
(two rushing) and 10 interceptions. He threw for 347 yards against Tennessee
and has tossed at least 200 yards and one score in every game.
Mike Davis (158 carries, 819 yards, eight TDs) is one of the best workhorse
backs in the SEC but picked up just 69 yards on 16 attempts against the
Volunteers while taking a backseat to Brandon Wilds (eight carries, 143 yards,
two TDs). Wilds has been a great change-of-pace option all season with 445
yards and three scores on 71 carries.
Pharaoh Cooper had a career night the last time out with 11 receptions for 233
yards and two touchdowns (adding a 30-yard touchdown pass as well). He has 51
catches on the season and ranks in the top-25 nationally in yards (786) and
touchdowns (eight). The deep receiving corps has five others with at least 200
South Carolina’s downfall has come due to its porous defense, which has failed
to live up to expectations by allowing 34.1 ppg and 460.6 ypg. The unit
allowed a lackluster Tennessee offense to pile up 645 yards while allowing two
75-plus yard touchdown drives late in regulation.
The defense has forced just 10 turnovers, two coming via Brison Williams’
interceptions. T.J. Gurley (55 tackles, INT) and Skai Moore (51 tackles) are
the leading tacklers, although Moore is questionable with an ankle injury.
The Gators’ offense (30.5 ppg, 385.2 ypg) hasn’t been much to marvel at this
season, but they have seen improvement since making a change at quarterback,
scoring 34 points or more in two straight.
The ineffectiveness of Jeff Driskel (.527 completions, 928 yards, six TDs, 10
INTs) forced the hand of coach Will Muschamp to give the reins over to
freshman Treon Harris (28-of-45, 505 yards, three TDs, INT), who threw for 215
yards last week and rushed for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
The team has gone to a much more run-heavy attack with Harris under center, as
it rushed for 214 yards and four scores a week ago after going for 418 rushing
yards against Georgia on Nov. 1. Matt Jones (698 yards) and Kelvin Taylor
(452 yards) both average more than 5.4 yards per carry and each has scored
Demarcus Robinson in far and away the most trusted receiver on the team. His
reception (36) and yardage (546) totals are more than twice the next-best
player and he’s been on the receiving end of four touchdowns.
Florida’s defense has been strong as usual this season in allowing just 22.9
ppg and 334.0 ypg while ranking tied for 15th in the nation in turnovers with
Keanu Neal has been especially active in the turnover battle with three
interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble, but he’s questionable
with an ankle injury. Antonio Morrison (72 tackles) has 29 more tackles than
any of his teammates. Dante Fowler Jr. is a playmaker on the edge with 43
tackles, 8.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 11 QB hurries and two forced fumbles. Vernon
Hargreaves III has two interceptions and 10 pass breakups.
In an uncharacteristic season for the Gamecocks, it is difficult to trust them
on the road against a Florida team that has discovered a new, more productive
offensive identity in recent weeks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 34, South Carolina 28