Another survival test


After barely dodging a nightmare loss to Vanderbilt last Saturday, the Florida Gators may find themselves in a similar situation Saturday at South Carolina. All the elements are there: the Gamecocks have been playing well on offense, the Florida defensive line is depleted, USC has beaten UF four of the last five years, the Gator offense is regressing, UF might be in letdown mode after clinching the division, USC is fighting to get bowl eligible and playing at home.

A week ago, I saw Florida’s meltdown on offense coming against Vanderbilt, and it happened. It may be the defense’s turn to do the same Saturday. The situation at defensive tackle is downright scary if Jon Bullard is unable to play, and I’m guessing he probably won’t. That will leave the Gators with three scholarship tackles available for the game — Caleb Brantley, Taven Bryan and Khairi Clark. If the Gators get pushed around up front (like the offensive line did against Vanderbilt), it’s going to be a long day against a balanced USC offense that has been on a roll under interim head coach Shawn Elliott, averaging 422.1 yards a game over the last three games.

Pharoh Cooper, of course, is going to be a major problem. Not only is he a dangerous wide receiver, he’s very good running the football out of the wildcat quarterback position — and we all know how the Gators have struggled against running quarterbacks. The Gators also are going to be facing some option, something they haven’t really seen all season. I have a feeling the USC offense is going to be able to control the ball and shorten the game.

So, mark it down, the defense is going to have its hands full Saturday.

As for the Florida offense, what can you say? Instead of developing and improving, it’s been regressing. Some will point to South Carolina’s porous defense and assume the Gators will have a chance to sustain drives and score a bunch of points. I’m assuming that this struggling Gator offense is going to make this bad South Carolina defense look good.

I’m still not sure how they did it, but the Gators escaped a week ago. They’ll have to find a way to do it again Saturday. I’m not sure how they’re going to do it, but they will.

Prediction: Florida 18, South Carolina 17