Making The Pick highlights yet another SEC matchup between #7 South Carolina against #2 Florida.
Another week and another turn for Making The Pick to choose between two SEC opponents. Right now MTP sits at a record of 6-3 for the season while going 2-3 in the SEC conference. While we are in no mode of desperation, we would like to get back to .500 in conference play. So firstly we have Florida, who for all intense purposes has played arguably the toughest schedule in college football thus far. Florida has two decisive road victories against both Texas A&M and Tennessee while getting their biggest win two weeks ago at home against LSU. Meanwhile South Carolina had the unfortunate pleasure of playing LSU fresh off their loss to Florida. LSU came out sharp on both sides of the ball beating the Gamecocks 23-21. The score was definitely not indicative of how the game actually went for South Carolina either. The Gamecocks were outgained 406-211, held to 3-13 on 3rd down conversions, and dominated in time of possession 36:57 to 23:03. A far cry from their performance a week before against Georgia in which they decisively won 35-7.
South Carolina Offense
The biggest question/concern/worry/potential weakness for South Carolina is the health of All-American RB Marcus Lattimore (584 rushing yards & 10 TDs) going into Saturday’s game. Should he not play, either Freshmen Mike Davis (117 rushing yards) or Kenny Miles (100 rushing yards) will take the carries. This would be a big blow for South Carolina because so much of their success is dependent upon Lattimore’s ability to soften the defense with his rushing ability. We saw that last week against LSU when Lattimore had a down day (35 yards on 13 carries) thus hamstringing the success of the Gamecock offense. Additionally should he not play, even more pressure would fall on the shoulders of QB Connor Shaw. Shaw had been one of the most accurate QBs in the country going into last week having thrown only 2 INTs all season and completing 70% of his passes. Against LSU’s stifling defense Shaw only completed 55% of his throws while doubling his INT total by throwing 2 picks.
Highlights from last week’s game against LSU
South Carolina Defense
Even with their lackluster performance last week against LSU, South Carolina still fields the #12 ranked defense in the country only allowing 296 yards per game. Just like we wrote last week, much of South Carolina’s success on defense stems from their talented defensive line’s ability to disrupt plays and timing in the backfield. They have the 3rd most sacks in the country with 26 and average nearly 8 tackles for loss per game. However, last week LSU simply ran right into the teeth of the South Carolina defense repeatedly thus exploiting their tendency to over pursue. Ironically LSU’s defense is built much like South Carolina, and this is the same philosophy that Florida used to beat LSU a few weeks ago in Gainesville. Look for Florida to use a similar philosophy against the Gamecocks this week.
In my opinion this year’s Florida team is very reminiscent of the 2002 Ohio State National Championship team. They are not flashy, they’re run-first, they have a mobile mistake free QB, and they have a stingy defense that makes timely stops. Another eerie similarity is that 2002 was Jim Tressel’s 2nd year as HC for the Buckeyes after going 7-5 in his 1st season. Florida HC Wil Muschamp is now in his 2nd season after a 7-6 campaign last year. Comparisons aside, this is a sound Florida offense. QB Jeff Driskel had an excellent game last week against Vanderbilt, breaking Tim Tebow’s record for rushing yards in a game for a QB with 177 while adding 3 TDs. RB Mike Gillislee is to the go-to-guy averaging 102 yards per game while adding 7 TDs for the season. This is by no means a high-octane offense they are currently #82 in the country with only 378 yards per game of total offense. However, they have only turned the ball over 4 times all season and deploy one of the best overall special teams units in the country.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Gator defense is tough and they are consequently ranked #13 right behind the Gamecocks in total defense. S Matt Elam (33 tackles and 3 for loss) has stepped up and been by far their biggest playmaker on this side of the football this season. He plays much bigger than he is, and has an excellent nose for the football. Additionally the Gators are expecting starters LB Jelani Jenkins and DL Dominque Easley to be back in the lineup on Saturday. Last week the Commodores were the 1st team to score any points against the Gators in the 4th quarter this year. So far under Muschamp this season they have dominated the 2nd half of play by outscoring opponents 98-23 while only allowing 2 TDs. Keep this in mind Saturday because the Gamecocks have struggled in the 4th having allowed 34 points in that quarter this season, which is their worst quarter defensively.
Matt Elam intercepts Tennessee’s Tyler Bray then proceeds to get clotheslined by teammate
Winner – South Carolina
In last year’s game the teams practically mirrored each other in every aspect and in every statistic with the Gamecocks coming away with a close 17-12 win in Colombia. This year South Carolina must go into the ever unfriendly confines of The Swamp and attempt to eek out a win. While I may be going out on a very unstable limb, I believe South Carolina will win even with the possible absence of Lattimore, and I’ll tell you why. South Carolina would be absolutely obtuse not to think that Florida will play with the same philosophy that they did against LSU and for that matter what LSU did against them. The key is that South Carolina is talented enough defensively to make adjustments and cause the same kind of havoc that LSU unleashed on Florida a couple weeks ago. Behind much improved defensive line play from a week ago and timely completions and pickups on the ground by Connor Shaw I think the Gamecocks will come away with a big conference win Saturday afternoon. This game will be a close hard fought defensive battle, where the winner could very well be the team who has the ball last.