For the first time this season USC will be coming off a loss as it heads in too possibly the biggest game of the season. Last week, USC did not play up to their potential and ended up taking it on the chin with a 23-21 loss to LSU. If South Carolina comes out and plays like they did last week, it could be another long day for the Gamecocks.
The last time the Gamecocks visited "The Swamp," tailback Marcus Lattimore ran the Gamecocks all the way to Atlanta for the SEC Championship. I have a feeling he might do the same in 2012 if he can get his hip issue taken care of.
The Gators offense and defense is much improved from year's past under Coach Will Muschamp. The once Texas assistant coach has the Gators 6-0 and looking for a trip to the SEC Championship for the first time in a quite a few years. What it boils down to, much like the LSU game, is the winner of this clash will be the team that wins the trench battles.
A Look at the Gator Offense: Florida's offense has stuggled this season but seems to be hitting a stride at the right time. This is something a banged up Carolina defense doesn't want to hear. It looks like USC will be with out Kelcey Quarles in the middle which could really help the Gators offense out.
The Gators are led by sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who has passed for 836 yards and rushed for 326 yards this season. USC will need to keep a spy on him or Driskel could have a big game running the ball. Behind Driskel is the SEC's second leading rusher Mike Gillislee, who has rushed for 615 yards on 102 carries and averages 5.1 yards per carry. Florida's top receiver is back-up quarterback and starting tight end Jordan Reed. On the season, Reed has 21 receptions and 237 yards. Besides Reed, Frankie Hammond has the second most catches on the team with 11 for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
The Gator's offense on the season is averaging 378 yards and 27.8 points. Of the 378 yards only 148 are passing, which ranks Florida 118th nationally. Look for the Gator's to run the ball a lot on Saturday. The Gamecocks, if they desire to win, must stop the UF run game. To do so, they must get pressure off the edge and the linebackers have to plug the gaps along the line. On top of that, USC must tackle well inside the box. I am not too concerned with the pass defense for USC as they will do fine. Key is stopping the UF run.
A look at the Gator Defense: Florida and South Carolina have a very similar defensive schmee and both only give up 12 points per game. Just like USC, the Gators have a fast secondary and a good front seven. The biggest difference is USC has gotten to the opposing QB 26 times compared to Florida's 12 sacks. This could be the difference in the game.
Florida is led by linebacker Jonathan Bostic and safety's Matt Elam and Josh Evans. Evans's is the Gator's leading tackler with 37 and Bostic leads the team with three sacks and six TFL. On the defensive line, Omar Hunter and Shariff Floyd can clog up the middle if the Gamecocks look to run between the tackles. Hunter and Floyd have combined for 45 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss.
What might happen Saturday: The Swamp will once again be rocking for a USC vs. Florida match up that could determine the SEC East Championship. Just like back in 2010, look for USC to lean on the run game to be the difference maker. USC's defensive front is a little banged up coming out of the showdown with LSU. If USC is missing some key players in the middle of the line, Florida could have a field day running the ball with Driskel and Gillislee.
South Carolina has won the past two against the Gators and Steve Spurrier knows how to win at the "Swamp." This will play in the favor the Gamecocks as I think the USC offense will play much better this week. My key to the game will be the play of Ace Sanders, both on specail teams and on offense. Look for Ace to have his number called early and often. For USC to win, the stable of running backs will need to carry the ball at least 25 times for over 100 yards.
Prediction: USC 21 Florida 20
As you know, this game will be featured on ESPN's College GameDay so hopefully we see some Garnet and Black on ESPN again.
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffen Stadium (The Swamp) Capacity 88,548
Head Coach: Will Muschamp-2nd season as head coach (13-6 overall record)
2012 Record: 6-0 overall, 5-0 SEC
Vs. USC: Florida leads the series 23-6-3, but USC has won 2 in a row.
Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.