Florida-South Carolina storylines
Published: Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, October 19, 2012 at 9:48 p.m.
Staff writers Robbie Andreu and Jon McDonald take a closer look at Florida vs. South Carolina.
These Gamecocks were Gators
At least for a while. There are three players on the South Carolina depth chart who committed to Florida during the recruiting process, but for various reasons ended up becoming Gamecocks instead. Two of them — starting cornerback Victor Hampton and backup defensive end Chaz Sutton — committed to Urban Meyer. Hampton pledged to the Gators before ever visiting campus. Some off-the-field issues in his senior season ended the relationship with UF. Sutton had academic issues and could not enroll. The latest defector is true freshman tailback Mike Davis. A solid UF commitment for months, Davis bolted on the Gators last January when the UF staff continued to pursue another tailback. Davis is the Gamecocks' No. 3 tailback.
Gators looking for some payback
During his 12 years at Florida, Steve Spurrier was part of many Swamp celebrations. But perhaps one of his biggest came two years ago, when South Carolina won the SEC Eastern Division with a 36-14 romp over his former school. Spurrier being Spurrier, he showed no compassion for his former team. In fact, he orchestrated the celebration that included a Gatorade shower for him and a ride on the shoulders of his players to midfield after the game. The Gators remember it well. “That's a feeling you'll never forget,” senior safety Josh Evans said. “It's definitely revenge, man.”
South Carolina still hasn't won the SEC title with Spurrier, but the Gamecocks sure have written a lot of history with the Head Ball Coach. They've beaten Georgia three times in a row, Florida twice in a row (including USC's first victory in Gainesville two years ago) and have flipped the series with state-rival Clemson, which used to own the Gamecocks. USC has a chance to write another history chapter today. A win over the No. 3 Gators would match the best road victory in school history. It would tie with USC's 31-13 victory over No. 3 North Carolina in 1981. But, hey, that was North Carolina. This is Florida. USC's only other road win against a top-10 team came against No. 8 West Virginia (20-14) in 1953.
Nothing funny about Clowney
In last Saturday's LSU victory over South Carolina in Baton Rouge, did the Tigers give the Gators a game plan for how to neutralize USC defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, one of the nation's elite defensive players? LSU had trouble pass-blocking against Clowney (doesn't everybody?), but seemed to have success running the ball directly at the 256-pound end. It has spawned a popular theory this week that Clowney, the dynamic pass rusher, is not very strong against the run. Spurrier quickly scoffed at that notion. “LSU sort of ran at him, but they had a lot of guys in there blocking and we didn't slow it down as well as we needed to. But he's a good player. He's not only just a pass rusher, he plays the run pretty well, also,” Spurrier said. Still, watch for the Gators to run at Clowney today.
Spur in UF's side
Florida didn't begin playing South Carolina every season until the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. UF won the first 13 games with its new divisional opponent, scoring an average of 39 points per game. The Gators were on cruise control in the series until Steve Spurrier became USC's head coach in 2005. Since then, Florida has lost three games in the series, including the last two, and holds only a 4-3 edge. A USC win today would put Spurrier at 4-4 against the Gators in his eight seasons in Columbia.
Today's winning team will not need any outside help to make it to the SEC title game, but that doesn't mean getting to Atlanta is a lock. All three teams atop the SEC East (UF, USC, Georgia) have a shot to win the division. Georgia is the only team not in control of its own destiny, which is why QB Aaron Murray urged Bulldog fans to root for the Gators today. A UF win would let UGA take back control seven days before the two teams meet in Jacksonville.
Remember, remember the 12th of November
With a berth in the SEC title game on the line on Nov. 12, 2010 at The Swamp, Florida ran back the opening kickoff for a touchdown against South Carolina. The Gators then managed to do little else for the duration of the game. The Gamecocks ran all over Florida and controlled the clock to the tune of a 36-14 win. The Gators had survived a miserable October that season, going 1-3 and losing twice at home. But Urban Meyer's team was still in the thick of the SEC East race after beating Georgia in overtime. That made the demoralizing loss to South Carolina hurt that much more. “We're just not very good,” Meyer said after the game. He ended up leaving the Gators at season's end.
Hip to be scared
Spurrier has said Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore will travel with the team, but is not expected to start (but could play) because of a bruised hip suffered in the loss to LSU. Lattimore diced Florida's defense for 212 yards and three TDs in 2010, and is an enormous part of the South Carolina offense with 584 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns so far this season. If he is unable to shake the injury and be a major factor, the resurgent Gator defensive line could make it a long day for the USC backfield.
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