Game Day preview: What you need to know about Florida-South Carolina
The season is flying by.
Florida has already clinched the SEC East, but now the Gators have a chance to get some revenge against South Carolina on Saturday. Here’s some stuff to get you ready for game day.
No. 11 Florida (8-1, 6-1 SEC) at South Carolina (3-6, 1-6 SEC), Saturday at noon (ESPN)
Weather: 56 degrees, 0 percent chance of rain
Line: Florida is favored to win by 7.5 points.
Numbers to know:
* Gators freshman wide receiver Antonio Callaway ranks 10th nationally and first in the SEC with 21.5 yards per catch this season. Callaway has 20 catches for 429 yards and three touchdowns.
* Opponents have totaled -6 return yards on Gators punter Johnny Townsend’s last 30 punts.
* South Carolina has allowed its opponent to finish with more than 400 total yards in five of nine games this season. The Gamecocks rank 89th nationally in total defense, giving up 428 yards per game.
* Not much has separated Florida and South Carolina recently. Three of their past four meetings have been decided by five points or less.
* The Gators have not recorded a win in Columbia, S.C., since 2009.
Story lines to watch:
* Can the Gators stay motivated?: Clinched a winning season in Jim McElwain’s first season at the helm? Check. Clinched the SEC East title for the first time since 2009? Check. With all of that in the bag, how will Florida stay motivated against a 3-6 South Carolina team on Saturday? Three words — College Football Playoff. In order to have any shot of making the final four, the No. 11 Gators will have to win out. That means Florida will have to survive a road game against the Gamecocks. If the College Football Playoff isn’t enough motivation for the Gators, maybe their recent struggles against South Carolina will do. Florida has dropped four of its past five meetings with South Carolina. Last season’s overtime loss to the Gamecocks cost Will Muschamp his job. Muschamp was fired as the Gators’ head coach the day after losing to South Carolina 23-20. Gators players have talked about coming out on the winning side of the series this season. We’ll see if Florida can do that
* Questions on the defensive line: Florida’s defensive line has not been the subject of many questions this season. What is there to question? The Gators’ defensive line has accounted for 42.5 of the team’s 69 tackles for loss and 21.5 of the team’s 27 sacks this season. Florida is tied for 19th nationally in tackles for loss and tied for 13th nationally in sacks. But there are questions surrounding the Gators’ defensive line this week. The group’s depth will likely be tested, as star defensive tackle Jon Bullard is “highly questionable” for the South Carolina game with an arm injury, defensive lineman Joey Ivie will miss the game with a leg injury, and defensive end Jordan Sherit will miss the first half of this week’s game after being called for a targeting penalty against Vanderbilt. If Bullard can’t play, freshman CeCe Jefferson and redshirt freshman Khairi Clark are expected to get more reps. It will be interesting to see how Florida handles the situation especially against South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds, who has totaled 326 yards on 61 carries over the past three games. That’s 5.3 yards per carry.
* Offensive performance: Florida’s offense sure turned in an offensive performance against Vanderbilt last week. The Gators scored a season-low nine points against the Commodores. It was a struggle for the unit to get anything going even after starting seven of their 13 drives in Vanderbilt territory. The Gators’ offense is hopeful it can get things back on track against South Carolina this week. This would be a good time to have a bounce-back performance with the Gamecocks ranked 13th in the SEC and 89th nationally in total defense, giving up 428 yards per game this season. All eyes will be on Florida quarterback Treon Harris. Over the past two games, Harris has completed 47 percent of his passes for 313 yards, one touchdown and one interception while losing two fumbles. If the Gators want to be considered as legitimate championship contenders, Harris is going to have to pick up his play for the suspended Will Grier.
My prediction: Florida 30, South Carolina 13.
Anthony’s season picks record: 7-2