South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier
The differences between Steve Spurrier's Florida teams of the 1990s and his current team at South Carolina is about as wide as the gap separating the Republicans and Democrats.
Spurrier's "Fun 'N Gun" offense has been replaced with a more conservative approach of running the ball and playing defense—even if it does agitate the Head Ball Coach on the sideline from time to time.
In 1996, Spurrier's Florida Gators finished 12-1, dropped the regular-season finale to the Florida State Seminoles, only to exact revenge on their intrastate rival in the 1997 Sugar Bowl in a 52-20 trouncing to claim the 1996 national championship.
Led by Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel, those Gators led the SEC with an average of 503.9 total yards per game and 333.9 passing yards per game. Reidel Anthony led all Gator receivers with 1,293 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.
Spurrier's South Carolina teams couldn't be more different.
The Gamecocks win by using a pounding ground attacked behind Heisman candidate Marcus Lattimore.
In each of the three years prior to Lattimore setting foot on campus in 2010, the Gamecocks finished dead last in the SEC in rushing offense.
But Lattimore's presence has changed the way Spurrier operates. The Gamecocks finished eighth in the conference in rushing in 2010 at 154.36 yards per game, and then improved upon that to 192.08 yards per game in 2011, third in the SEC.
Those two seasons have produced the first division title in South Carolina history followed by the first 11-win season in program history.
That's not an accident.
While the offenses that the two programs run vary, the Gators were successful in 1996 for the same reason that South Carolina is successful now—defense.
Those Gators allowed just 281.1 yards per game and only 108.6 on the ground.
The same can be said about Steve Spurrier's current South Carolina team.
The Gamecocks gave up 267.7 yards per game last season, which was the third-best mark in the SEC.
While the early-season stats are skewed a bit due to varying degrees of competition, the transition to defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward from former associate head coach in charge of defense Ellis Johnson has been smooth. The Gamecocks are giving up 300 total yards per game, 67 of which are on the ground.
The 1996 Florida Gators won the national title, and the 2012 South Carolina Gamecocks are very much in the mix to do the same. The two teams have the same head coach, but their methods differ a bit on offense.
Which is the path of least resistance in the SEC?
Why the difference?
Spurrier's inability to find a legitimate passing threat at quarterback until Connor Shaw set foot on campus certainly contributed to the transformation. But it's probably more connected to the fact that Spurrier has become more flexible adjusting his offense to the talent that's on the roster.
When that roster includes Lattimore, it certainly makes sense.
There are different ways to skin a cat, and Spurrier is proving that with his recent run of success at South Carolina.