After a loss to Tennessee, South Carolina must turn its attention to the final three games in hopes of becoming bowl eligible.
Up next are the Florida Gators, who are fresh off their 9-6 barn-burner of a game against Vanderbilt where they clinched the SEC East. They come into Williams-Brice Stadium, where the Gators haven’t won since 2009, when Tim Tebow was still on the team.
There’s a lot going on with this game, with Florida having an outside shot of making the College Football Playoff, and South Carolina scratching and clawing for a bowl bid.
Here are some of the biggest storylines to pay attention to when the game kicks off Saturday at noon.
How will the offense play against the Florida pass rush?
The Gators are probably the best defense the Gamecocks will play all year, ranking sixth in the nation in total defense. The Gators are ranked in the top-15 in sacks allowed, and the Gamecock offense will need to navigate that front seven if it wants to win. Establishing a running game is important because if Brandon Wilds can gain good yardage, it opens up the passing game. Orth needs to continue his consistent play from the last two weeks and the team has to hold on to the football.
Will the defense take advantage of a lackluster Florida offense?
For as good as the Florida defense has been, Will Grier’s suspension has stalled the Florida offense. Since the quarterback was suspended for using illegal substances, the Florida offense is averaging 197 passing yards per game. With Grier behind center, the Gators were averaging 246 passing yards per game. The Gamecock defense could possibly take advantage of a sluggish Florida team. It starts with stopping the run, something the Gamecocks had trouble with through the first half against Tennessee. If the defensive line can stonewall the running backs, it could make a run-heavy team more one-dimensional.
Can the team put together a complete game?
It seems like every week the offense and defense play a great half of football, only to lose in the end. It’ll take a complete game to beat the Gators. The defense needs to do whatever they’re doing at halftime and implement that in the first half and Orth needs to catch fire earlier than the third quarter if the Gamecocks want to force the Gators into an uncomfortable situation. Also, if the defense comes out early and holds the Gators to a low point total, then it takes the pressure off Orth to try and score every drive.
Will the team come out with confidence?
There are always two ways to come out after a heartbreaker like the Gamecocks had last week: they could come out sluggish and defeated or rally and come out swinging. If the Gamecocks do the latter, they could catch Florida sleeping. And, once the Gamecocks build some momentum, especially at home, it could be an upset in the making. After seeing the way this team responded after the loss to Texas A&M and considering how good of a motivator Shawn Elliott is, expect to see the confident Gamecocks come Saturday.