What You’ll Need to Know About Florida
By Avery Wilks
In the third “biggest game of the season” for South Carolina in as many weeks, the season hangs in the balance as the Gamecocks travel to Gainesville to face #2 Florida at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The mission for Saturday couldn’t be simpler: find a way to defeat the Gators in front of a hostile 88,500 fans if you want this season to be something more. Losing all but eliminates South Carolina’s hopes of appearing in the SEC Championship game, as either Florida or Georgia will undoubtedly win the remainder of their SEC games and finish with one loss. With the driver’s seat in the SEC East up for grabs, both teams will scratch and claw for every inch in the SEC Game of the Week Saturday.
- Florida’s record: (6-0, 5-0 SEC), good for a #2 BCS Ranking.
- Florida is first in the SEC East, with South Carolina and Georgia trailing at second.
- The Gators have 10 SEC Championship appearances, while South Carolina has only one.
- Florida is off to its best start since Tim Tebow’s senior season, when they started 12-0 before losing to Alabama in the SEC Championship.
- Florida leads the series record 26-6-3.
- South Carolina had never beaten the Gators in two-straight games until last year.
- Florida is 12-1 against South Carolina in Gainesville, with the lone win coming in 2010.
- Last Meeting: South Carolina won 17-12 on November 12, 2011 in Columbia, SC.
Florida Season Recap and Scouting Report
Florida has finally made its long-awaited return to national prominence, as Will Muschamp has proven thus far in his second season that he is capable of leading the Gators to success similar to that of the Urban Meyer and Steve Spurrier eras. With one of the nation’s strongest defenses and a resurgent offense led by an improved Jeff Driskel, Florida has been on fire of late, claiming the SEC East lead last week with a 31-17 win at Vanderbilt.
For the second straight week, South Carolina’s defense will have to face a mostly one-dimensional offense. Florida primarily keeps it on the ground, with most of the carries going to running back Mike Gillislee, the SEC’s leading rusher with 615 yards and seven touchdowns. Gillislee isn’t the only threat coming out of the backfield however, as quarterback Jeff Driskel–326 yards, four touchdowns–and Wildcat back Trey Burton–109 yards, two touchdowns–have surprised opposing defenses all year long. These Gators combine to average 233 rushing yards per game, second in the SEC only to Texas A&M’s 235. Despite Driskel’s rapid improvements under Will Muschamp, Florida still struggles to move the ball through the air, placing last in the SEC with 145 passing yards per game. Make sure to pay attention to what Driskel does when pressured into passing situations against the Gamecocks, as he’s been mostly untested in that respect so far in 2012.
Defensively, the story for Florida will be how well they can adapt to South Carolina’s zone-read rushing attack, which has gashed the Gators for well over 200 yards in each of the last two meetings. With the 6th-ranked scoring defense in the nation, Florida seems up for the challenge, as they held LSU’s powerful rushing attack to a measly 42 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Extremely speedy at almost every position, the Gator defense will focus most of its efforts on staying disciplined against the run and containing Marcus Lattimore–or whoever suits up as the starting back for the Gamecocks Saturday. If South Carolina turns to the pass, the Gators are well-suited to defend Connor Shaw’s aerial assault as well, as Florida ranks 17th in the nation in passing defense and has snagged seven interceptions among six different players in 2012. It’s no surprise that the Gators will present a unique and difficult challenge on both sides of the ball come Saturday.