For a team that was struggling so mightily less than a month ago, things are now setting up almost too perfectly for the Florida Gators.
Florida is on a roll, South Carolina is on a slide, coming off a 21-point loss at home to Arkansas.
The Gators are healthy and playing at home, the Gamecocks are banged up and playing on the road.
Florida has confidence and momentum, South Carolina has some self-doubt after a shaky four weeks that included two losses, one to Kentucky.
It’s almost too perfect for Florida. Which makes me wonder: Is Steve Spurrier going to unleash something totally unexpected on the Gators and find a way to win this game and take the Gamecocks to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game for the first time in school history? Let’s put it this way, it would not shock me.
Listening to Spurrier on the SEC coaches teleconference earlier this week, I can sense that Spurrier really likes his chances in this game. This is the most talented team he’s had at USC and the Gamecocks have already beaten a team (Alabama) that embarrassed the Gators 31-6 earlier in the season. So, Spurrier and the Gamecocks know they can win this game, no matter how much USC has struggled recently, especially last Saturday against Arkansas.
I know everyone is worried that Spurrier is going to drop some trick plays on the Gators. He might, but I think his priority is going to be controlling the clock and the tempo of the game with tailback Marcus Lattimore and the underneath passing game of quarterback Stephen Garcia. Hog the ball. That’s how Spurrier beat Florida in 2005 – and how he almost beat the Gators in 2006 in The Swamp. Ball control and defense. It doesn’t sound like Spurrier, but this is what he has become.
The Gators, of course, will try to force USC into some obvious passing situations, then try to pressure Garcia into some bad plays. But pressuring the quarterback has not exactly been a UF strength this season. The bottom line, though, is try to make Garcia beat you instead of Lattimore. The goal will be to slow down Lattimore and put the game in Garcia’s hands – and take your chances from there.
Offensively, the Gators will try to stay on their three-quarterback roll and make some big things happen against a struggling USC secondary.
First prediction: The Gators will actually finally get off to a fast start and the Swamp will be rocking and rolling.
Second prediction: Florida 35, South Carolina 21.