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Week 8 – South Carolina at Florida
Posted Oct 18, 2012

Week 8 Fearless Prediction – South Carolina at Florida

South Carolina (6-1) at Florida (6-0) Oct. 20, 3:30, CBS

Here’s The Deal: It’s Round 3 of the round-robin slugfest between LSU, South Carolina and Florida, with the Tigers battling hard the last two weeks losing to the Gators and beating the Gamecocks. Now, for South Carolina, the season is on the line in what amounts to a do-or-die game for the SEC East, the conference, and possibly the BCS title hunt.

There’s still time. No one’s going to thumb their nose at a tough loss at LSU, so if the Gamecocks can beat the No. 2 team in the country in Gainesville, and run the rest of the table – which shouldn’t be too hard with the next three games at home before going to Clemson – they’ll effectively win the East with a spotless division record and will go on to likely face either Alabama or LSU again in the SEC title game. Win that, and the ticket to Miami might be punched. That’s how big this is.

Meanwhile, the Gators still have plenty of work to do. It’s been a great start to the season highlighted by the victory over the Tigers two weeks ago, but they have to earn their East stripes by getting by the Gamecocks this week before going off to Jacksonville to deal with a Georgia team that will have its Florida pom-poms out. If the Gators win this week, then next week’s Not A Cocktail Party will effectively be for the East title.

Florida might be just behind Alabama in the first BCS rankings, but it’s been hard to get respect on a national scale – the big fight this week was whether or not Oregon deserved to be No. 2. The passing game isn’t strong, the games aren’t exactly pretty, and there’s still a Prove It factor kicking in for a team that’s brutally effective in what it does right. There might not be a more physical team in the SEC, and South Carolina has to prove it can hold up in the street fight.

Steve Spurrier’s boys were flattened by LSU as the game went on, while the offense couldn’t seem to find anything that consistently worked. Even so, the defensive line might be the best in America and Marcus Lattimore and the offense have been opportunistic and effective throughout the rest of the year. There’s enough talent and athleticism on both sides of the ball to win the national title, but a loss in The Swamp could ensure a trip to the Capital One Bowl.

Considering it seems like these two should be SEC rivals, they’ve only played 32 times. The Gamecocks won the last two, but before that the Gators won 18-of-19 with the previous USC win before the run coming in 1939.

Why South Carolina Might Win: The defensive line is going to pin its ears back and fly into the backfield on a regular basis. The Florida offensive line might be knocking blasting away with the running game, but it’s struggling in a big way in pass protection for a passing attack that’s not exactly bombing away. Part of the reason is because quarterback Jeff Driskel is running enough to technically suffer a few sacks here and there, but the O line is having a few problems giving up three sacks per game and 18 on the year. South Carolina wasn’t able to sack Zach Mettenberger on a regular basis last week, but they were able to generate pressure into the LSU backfield. Even if they don’t sack Driskel, they’ll get to him.

Florida’s punting game has been a key part of the puzzle with Kyle Christy pinning teams deep and letting the defense do the work, but South Carolina should be able to counteract the Gators with Ace Sanders, who gave LSU fits with a 50-yard return and return two punts for 70 yards and a score against Georgia.

Why Florida Might Win: How much does South Carolina have left in the tank? The body blows have to start adding up, and more than that, it’s asking way too much to keep the intensity level up at 11 for three weeks in a row. The Gamecocks were jacked up for the Georgia game, coming out roaring in the dominant 35-7 win, and they had to deal with the date in Death Valley at LSU. This is the anti-Boise State argument; it’s one thing to beat one great team on a given day, but beat Georgia, and then LSU, and then Florida. And the worst part about it is that the Gators are going to bring the thump and lumber more than anyone else the Gamecocks have dealt with, and the same formula that worked for LSU should work for Florida.

The Gators are winning games by running, running and running some more until the dam breaks in the second half. LSU was able to wear down the USC defensive front, and while Florida doesn’t have the same rotation of backs, Mike Gillislee should be able to thump away to keep control of the game and the clock. As good and as effective as the South Carolina offense has been, it’s going to have a hard time against the nation’s sixth-best defense. The Gators aren’t giving up a thing against the run.

What To Watch Out For: Connor Shaw has to outplay Jeff Driskel. Last year, Shaw was able to do just enough to get the job done against the Gators running for 88 yards and two touchdowns, but he only completed 6-of-12 passes for 81 yards and a pick. He’s not going to have too much more success with the passing game this week against the air-tight Gator back seven, but he has thrown two touchdown passes in each of the last four games and he has been terrific when he gets into a rhythm, like he did late last week against USC. He has to be razor-sharp from the start consistently completing his short-to-midrange throws, especially on third downs.

Shaw might have to do even more than usual with the star of the team hurting. Running back Marcus Lattimore is expected to play, but he missed practice time with an injured hip. If he can’t go, Kenny Miles will get the work adding a bit more speed to the backfield, but Lattimore’s power and experience is a must against the physical Gator defense.

What Will Happen: If you likes the South Carolina-LSU game, you’ll love this week. The Gamecocks will have the same problems moving the ball early on, and the Gators will run into the same issues LSU had with the passing game. In the end, the Florida power running game will come through late in a tough, hard-fought game that will go down to the final snap.

CFN Prediction: Florida 20 … South Carolina 16
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Florida -3 O/U: 41.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Seven Psychopaths, 1 – Here Comes the Boom): 5