They say the third quarterback’s the charm, right?
That’s at least what South Carolina hopes when true freshman Lorenzo Nunez starts against UCF on Saturday. Luckily for the Gamecocks, who were left reeling by a blowout loss to UGA last week, this game should provide the perfect chance for them to catch their breath. Here’s what you need to know heading into this matchup:
UCF (0-3) at South Carolina (1-2), Saturday noon kickoff (ESPNU)
Weather: 76 degrees, 20 percent chance of rain
Line: South Carolina is a 14.5-point favorite, according to Bovada
Numbers to know:
*South Carolina has the worst scoring defense in the SEC through three games, allowing an average of 30.3 points per contest. However, UCF has only averaged 12 points of offense in that span, which ranks dead last among the 128 FBS teams.
*Third down has been a killer so far for the Gamecocks, who rank 13th in the conference with 13 conversions on 39 attempts. You can easily point to a group of quarterbacks that has gained less than six yards per completion.
*South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and UCF coach George O’Leary have a combined 45 years of head coaching experience, with a total of 545 games overseen between the two. Spurrier is 3-0 against UCF all-time.
Story lines to watch:
*Can the kid play? On Saturday, Nunez will become South Carolina’s first true freshman to start at quarterback since 1999. Whether he can inject some life into an offense that has clearly lagged behind the rest of the SEC will go a long ways in giving the Gamecocks some hope. Nunez, who turned 19 years old two weeks ago, will be the team’s third starter in as many weeks after Connor Mitch went down with injury and former walk-on Perry Orth was benched.
*Getting defensive: Co-defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward filled reporters in on a number of lineup changes Thursday, including his intentions of moving Skai Moore from middle linebacker to the weakside. Spurrier seemed to openly disagree with Ward’s assessment on his radio call-in show later that evening. How that move shakes out, as well as how the other alterations affect South Carolina’s defensive performance, will be worth a close watch.
*And they hand it off to… How both teams distribute carries among their running backs remains a little murky. South Carolina’s Brandon Wilds will miss the game with a cracked rib, while UCF dismissed top rusher William Stanback earlier this week for violating team rules. Senior Shon Carson, who has averaged over seven yards per rush for the past two seasons, will get the nominal start for the Gamecocks. With neither school having much success throwing the ball, the better rushing attack will likely decide this game.
*Wild child: For Gamecocks fans wanting to remember better days under Spurrier, they can look no further than former quarterback Stephen Garcia, who returned to Columbia this week for the first time since he was kicked off the team in 2011. Expect him to be recognized on the field at some point during the game.
Prediction: UCF has fallen from great heights even faster than the Gamecocks have this season. Spurrier’s gang will use this wonderful opportunity to regain their footing and enter next week’s game against Missouri with a .500 record.
South Carolina 33, UCF 24