Key Matchup: Florida Rushing Attack vs. South Carolina Defensive Line
By Zach Crowl
When Steve Spurrier returns to the Swamp this weekend for the annual matchup between Florida and South Carolina, he will see an offense much different from his old “fun n’ gun” attack when he called the shots for the Gators. This year Will Muschamp has found a system that has brought Florida more success than any of the college football pundits predicted for the 2012 Gators.
This success rides on the shoulders of the Gators’ rushing attack, led by senior running back Mike Gillislee and sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel. These two have rushed for over a combined 940 yards and 11 touchdowns, carrying their team to an undefeated season through six games. The passing attack for the Gators has been relatively dormant this year so they have relied on Gillislee in big games to step up as their offensive stud. The senior back has used his quickness and tantalizing cuts to rush for over 100 yards against Bowling Green, Tennessee, and LSU.
However, Gillislee isn’t the only one making noise in Florida’s rushing game. Whether the pocket is breaking down or he is simply making the correct read and keeping the ball, Jeff Driskel has shown that he has the speed to outrun a defense as he proved last week in his 177-yard performance against Vanderbilt. Look for these two to run the show Saturday for the Gators as the South Carolina defensive line tries to keep them in check.
The only hope the Gamecocks have for bringing down the talented Florida rushing attack is if they stop them early in the backfield. This job falls solely on the Carolina defensive line, one that has proven impressive time and again this year.
Unfortunately, they were exposed last week against an LSU team that ran for 258 yards, and the news continues to get worse as there may be several Gamecock defensive linemen out this week. Defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles is suspended for a punch thrown in the first quarter against LSU, while Jadeveon Clowney and Byron Jerideau are both questionable with injuries hampering their practice time this week.
Clowney–who leads the the team with 31 tackles and 6.5 sacks–is battling a foot injury, and Jerideau–19 tackles and 2 sacks–is facing an ankle injury. With three out of four of Carolina’s defensive line possibly out for the biggest game of the season, it’s hard to believe the ‘Cocks will be able to shut down Gillislee and Driskel. However, if they are not able to go, South Carolina does have capable back-ups that are ready to step up to the challenge.
No matter who gets the start, it is imperative that the Gamecocks make adjustments from last weekend’s LSU game so a similar fate does not await them this Saturday.
Edge: It seems that each time Florida has been on a big stage this season, Driskel and Gillislee have stepped up in big ways. This Saturday should not be any different, as they will be reinforced by a raucous crowd in the Swamp. With so many questions lingering for South Carolina about the defensive line, it’s hard to believe the Gator’s rushing attack will have any problem posting impressive numbers this Saturday. The edge goes to Florida.