Today's storylines: UF vs. South Carolina
Published: Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 1:11 a.m.
They were Gators once
Three of South Carolina’s elite players were once committed to the Gators during the recruiting process — tailback Mike Davis, defensive end Chaz Sutton and cornerback Victor Hampton. Of the three decommitment stories, Davis’ is the most intriguing. He loved Florida so much at one time that during his official visit to Gainesville he tweeted that he was so happy here he didn’t want to go back home. But Davis didn’t like Gainesville or the Gators anymore when the Florida coaching staff decided to recruit another tailback prospect. Once that happened, Columbia was suddenly looking more like home to him. It’s certainly worked out for him. He’s not only starting in his true sophomore season, Davis is leading in the SEC in rushing with 1,058 yards. The Gators sure could use this guy.
Spurrier vs. the Gators
Despite his unprecedented success at South Carolina, including some big wins over his alma mater, Steve Spurrier has not exactly owned the Gators since he’s been in Columbia. In fact, he’s beaten his old school only three times in eight tries and is only 2-2 against the Gators in Columbia. So, Florida has managed to hold its own against its legendary former coach, including last season’s 44-11 blowout win in The Swamp. So, will the former head ball coach really try to stick it to the struggling Gators today if he can? Well, duh. Of course he will.
Watch out for Clowney
Going up against a makeshift Florida offensive line today, All-America South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will be looking to make all kinds of noise in what has been a really quiet season for him. Considered a possible Heisman Trophy candidate at the start of the year, Clowney has been, well, pretty average so far this season. At least statistically. He’s recorded only two sacks and 26 tackles and seems to get frustrated at times with the double teams and the fact opposing offenses do everything they can to scheme him out of the flow of the game. Given the Gators’ shaky situation up front, Clowney may have a chance to take out his frustration and dominate like he hasn’t all season.
Gamecocks rule their roost
Williams-Brice Stadium has no real reputation for being a tough place to play, but that may be about to change. The Gamecocks are starting to look almost unbeatable at home, where they are riding an impressive 15-game winning streak. In fact, in their last 34 homes games, the Gamecocks are 31-3, with the only losses coming to Florida (2009), Arkansas (2010) and Auburn (2011). USC was 7-0 at home in 2012 and is now 4-0 this season, looking (and expecting) to go to 5-0 tonight.
This is the final conference game for the two teams, but the stakes are very different for each of them. With a win, No. 11 South Carolina will put pressure on SEC East leader Missouri, which still has two league opponents left on the schedule (including No. 10 Texas A&M). The Gators, on the other hand, need two more wins to become bowl-eligible. UF has not missed the postseason since Steve Spurrier’s first season in charge in 1990.
With quarterback Tyler Murphy questionable for today’s game, redshirt freshman Skyler Morhinweg could earn his first career start behind a banged-up offensive line that has surrendered 26 sacks this season. South Carolina is well-known for its prolific pass rush that features Jadeveon Clowney. Mornhinweg has been taking practice snaps all week, but the Florida coaches will likely look to keep it simple today.
Senior QB Connor Shaw is on a hot streak for the Gamecocks, but his history against UF has been up and down. In 2011, Shaw rushed for two touchdowns and led USC to a 17-12 win over Florida in Columbia. Last season’s rematch was not a success story for Shaw, who was benched in favor of Dylan Thompson in a 44-11 loss. The UF defense needs to slow Shaw to have a chance at an upset.
Quarles in charge
Clowney is not the only Gamecock pass rusher that can get to opposing quarterbacks. Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles (6-foot-4, 298 pounds) is taking advantage of the double teams on Clowney and already has seven sacks on the year, good for fourth in the SEC. Quarles is also second in the league with 11 tackles for loss, only trailing Missouri’s Michael Sam. Facing a Florida offensive line that’s missing three of its top tackles, the Gamecocks will be looking to feast on whatever quarterback lines up for the Gators today.
TODAY'S GAME QUESTIONS
1.Will the faltering defense get gutted in the ground game by Mike Davis, a former UF commitment and the SEC’s leading rusher?
2.Will All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney have his biggest game of the season against UF’s struggling offensive line?
3.Can the Gators avoid the kind of game-changing turnovers that killed them in last week’s loss to Vanderbilt?
4. Will it be another rough day for beleaguered Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy?
5. Will the Gators get off to their usual slow start and never lead in the game?
Check Gatorsports.com after the game for Andreu's Answers.